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MIKE BRAUN Loaded for bear at the DOW?



Published: Sun, July 15, 2001 @ 12:00 a.m.



When man and one of Mother Nature's creatures are at odds, it is usually Mom's offspring that gets the short shrift.

Since the end of June, there have been two "at odds" instances in Northeast Ohio that "bear" this out.

Twice, the lives of black bears wandering through this area came to an abrupt end, once at the end of a hypodermic and the other at the end of a bullet.

Initially, the Ohio Division of Wildlife determined that the two bears were in "no-escape" situations and deemed it necessary to move them.

When the critters returned for the second time to human-habitation areas, they were dispatched.

Three chances: Usually, according to DOW personnel, the bears get a third chance before being killed.

The difference this time, again according to the DOW, was that the bears quickly returned to human areas and became a potential problem.

A DOW spokesman told me last week that, essentially, had the bears taken their time returning, stopping and raiding trash bins along the way, maybe the outcome would have been different.

That the bears were relocated initially to the Grand River valley area, well within a bear's ability to return quickly, gives one pause to think.

Why not relocate the bears to more rural areas?

The spokesman, Dan Kramer, wildlife management supervisor for northeastern Ohio, said the division did not want to help the bears populate Ohio by placing them in areas where they were not established.

"We are not deliberately increasing or decreasing the bear population in Ohio," he said.

Not happy: The killing of these two bears engendered the ire of Trumbull County sportsmen.

The deaths were a hot topic at the Trumbull County Fair last week as hunters and others debated the division's actions.

Denny Molloy, a former Division of Wildlife game protector who was at the fair, said the killings were unnecessary.

"I'm sure they were not out to kill the bears. The part I see as wrong was where they placed them," he said.

Molloy said he works closely with the DOW on many other activities and has even raised funds for the state agency through his Whitetails Unlimited clubs.

"I don't have an ax to grind with the division," he said. "I work as a partner with the division, but that doesn't mean we can't have conflicting ideas," he said. Molloy urged the division to come up with a consistent policy on the placement of bears.

Bob Hill, a board member for the Trumbull federation, was more demanding.

Hill said he would make sure that somebody was held accountable for the bear deaths. He was strongly considering putting together a petition for sportsmen to sign urging the division to come up with a better plan of action.

"We would like them to do something instead of killing bears," he said.

Kramer said the division has no set policy on relocating wandering bears other than the three-strikes-and-they're-dead rule. The only policy, he said, deals with moving the bears if they get into a no-escape situation.

Recent reports: However, other recent news reports about the Ohio bear situation touched upon another possibility for why they were dispatched rather quickly.

A lawsuit was filed in Arizona after a relocated bear injured a person. The courts ruled negligence on the part of that state's wildlife department and awarded a $2-million settlement.

More recently, the family of a woman mauled to death by bears a year ago filed suit against the National Park Service. The $3.5-million suit claims the Park Service had been told about the bears and failed to act.

In Ohio, had the bears attacked someone, the division could possibly be held accountable, especially in our litigation-happy world these days.

Whatever the reasoning, whatever the policy, the division would be well-served to give it another think.

Two times within two weeks stretches things a bit. The division should get a bit of a leeway, but that leeway is fast closing up.

braun@vindy.com




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