HUMANS ARE STRANGE ANIMALS. They leave out delectable birdseed, chattering free-range chickens, and aromatic garbage, but shoot when bears, encouraged by this plenty, wander closer. Take the young bear that was up a tree in Newton on June 2. When an Environmental Police officer’s tranquilizer gun failed, someone had to kill it with a shotgun. A couple of weeks earlier, another black bear was spotted traipsing through Weston and Lincoln, probably foraging for food left out in the trash. Decades of wildlife conservation have increased bear populations, but the slow process of educating humans has clearly been less successful.
There’s no doubt that bears are far more visible in New England than they were even a generation ago, and it’s making people nervous. Over the last two decades, Vermont’s bear population has doubled to more than 6,000. In New Hampshire, there’s one every half mile, and complaints about them quadrupled to a record 1,100 last year. Massachusetts was home to 100 bears in 1970, now the state has about 4,000. And yet there isn’t an overpopulation problem; biologists argue these numbers are within reasonable limits.