Bears kill keepers in creepy Japanese Bear Farm

Bears escaped from desolate pens where they performed for food (and may have been part of gall bladder harvest). Two of 3 elderly caretakers were found dead.

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Does Whitebark Pine Decline = Increased Grizzly Attacks?


The grizzly bear committee report mainly just takes on a strawman claim that whitebark pine decline=grizzly decline. That’s not what the Times said. The agency’s report really doesn’t refute the real claim, whitebark pine decline=grizzly conflict increase. It just says it’s not the biggest factor.

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Yellowstone Bear Attack Investigation Halts Trapping, Starts Disagreements


“Erv never would’ve walked up on a bear that he saw. This was an accidental encounter at close range,” says bear expert and Evert’s friend Chuck Neal . “He wasn’t a moron. He was a brilliant man.”

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Who is to Blame for Fatal Yellowstone Area Grizzly Attack?


The other question is when the bear researchers left the area and if they left a sizable carcass behind. The Chicago Tribune says the researchers lured the bare to the trap with a carcass. Since grizzlies are known to protect carcasses, how did they dispose of it? The area was posted for bears. So is most of Yellowstone. The problem may be too many bear signs instead of not enough. I was there last week and nearly everywhere there was some sort of bear sign. I saw at least two grades–bear activity and area closed. But the area closed signs near Elephant Back trail were ambiguous; the trail was still open and a ranger lead a hike there. Maybe Yellowstone is becoming the park that cried bear?

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Yellowstone: How to See Bears

3 grizzlies

Grizzly family walks

“Where can I find a bear?” is supposedly the most common question asked of Yellowstone rangers. For decades this has been bear central. Back in the day, rangers set out garbage on bear-viewing stages. Now all food waste is sealed in steel and rangers would like to keep people far from bears–while paradoxically allowing us to enjoy the park.

The rangers want to keep people from bears not because humans are bears’ favorite snack. It’s more that bears make crowds of people do stupid things. In just a few shoulder season days I saw plenty cars stopped in the road and more than a few people chasing a grizzly down the road by foot and car. All the advice about bear spray and staying back 100 yards is forgotten when a handsome bear lumbers by.

Yellowstone has two bear species. Black bears are smaller, more docile and often have a lighter muzzle. And they’re usually black, but can come in rust to brown. Grizzlies (also called brown bears) are huge, more aggressive and have a big shoulder hump and superlong claws. So naturally, that’s the one Americans want to see. You can see black bears anywhere–or at least in 40 states, the Bear Center says. Yellowstone is one of a handful of pockets of grizzlies left in the lower 48–with the rest up on the remote Canadian border, the Grizzly Bear Outreach Project shows.

Grizzly Grins

Bears hardly ever attack people. (Though, while we

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Hunters Jump on Probable Alaska Fatal Wolf Attack to Argue for More Hunting

A self-portrait on Candice Berner’s blog

The horrible death last week of Candice Berner, an adventurous special ed teacher spending the year in remote Alaska villages, may be the first confirmed fatal attack by wolves in modern American history. Berner, 32, was attacked and partially eaten by animals March 8. Alaska wildlife officials shot two area wolves March 15 and are figuring out if they are the killers and if they have rabies, a common cause of rare wolf attacks. Hunting advocates are already jumping on the case as proof wolves are dangerous and need to be hunted.

Originally, because wolf attacks are so rare, authorities even wondered if she had died first, then been attacked. A fellow Alaska teacher said on her own blog that she couldn’t believe it.

Initially, I was in shock. Wolves, seriously? My knee-jerk reaction was bullshit. I did some research, and this is only the second time in history a wolf killed a human. A bear would attack a human, not wolves. It seemed too obscure to actually be true. Sometimes, I am angry. There is a part of me that thinks there must be something more to the story, perhaps foul play. Although she was tiny (standing at 4’11 and maybe 100lbs soaking wet), she was also a hunter and a trapper.

But her  autopsy points to just to an animal attack. Wolf tracks were at the scene and the other big predator, bears, are still hibernating.

Berner usually ran an

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Killer Whale Tilly Father to One-Quarter Captive Orcas

Shamu Rocks

Shamu Rocks, at Orlando SeaWorldcourtesy of Miss Quarel.

The horrific killing trainer Dawn Brancheau at Sea World by the orca Tilikum, or Tilly, prompted Sea World to indefinitely close its killer whale shows. But the Tilly problem is a long-term one. He fathered 10 of the current 42 other captive orcas around the world–nearly one-quarter of the stock.

Many blame the attack on the whole practice of holding these huge, sociable whales captive to entertain us. Jennifer Viegas at Discovery reports that Tilly, a stud whale, may have had high testosterone levels or swings. That’s what made him the most successful male killer whale captive breeder, siring a record 17 calves, 10 of which are still alive, Viegas says. His offspring include Unna, Sumar, Tuar, Tekoa, Nakai,, Kohana, Ikaika , Skyla,  Malia and Ky, who attacked a trainer in San Antonio in 2004. Plus, he has at least one grandchild.

That means nearly one-quarter of the killer whales held in captivity around the world and nearly half the 22 held by SeaWorld are related to a killer whale with high testosterone and high aggression. Even if he weren’t a flawed individual, that’s a terribly inbred population. But now that he’s been very publicly involved in three attacks on people, it highlights how misguided these breeding programs might be. Would you keep breeding the dog that attacks and kills people? 

But breeders probably had little choice but to rely on Tilly. No other male was anywhere near that

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60 Minutes Shoddy Shark Attack Research

Photo of a shark on a South African tour courtesy of David Salvatori on Flickr.Are sharks suddenly evolving into man-eaters?!60 Minutes worries they are. Last night they updated a story on shark tourism, which they blame for sharks “becoming more dangerous.”

Their proof? When they did the story in 2005, there had been six attacks off South Africa in the previous two years, three fatal. Before that Bob Simon declares shark attacks “virtually unheard of here.” Really?

Look, I know the game. Reporters always have to justify a story with a news peg. But shark attacks deaths aren’t one of those nebulous trends like people wearing straw hats; we know exactly how many shark attacks and deaths there are because the Global Shark Attack File keeps track.

The file doesn’t show any big increase in South Africa or the world. The file shows that there was about one fatal shark attack per year in South Africa since the early 1980s. Since 60 Minutes reported on this supposed surge in shark attacks in 2005? There have been three confirmed deaths off South Africa (and two deaths where sharks might have been involved). In other words, shark deaths have been following the same pattern for three decades: about one death a year off South Africa. And worldwide it’s about five a year.

You know what would’ve been a smart update? How about the study out just last month that tours off Hawaii aren’t really effecting shark behavior?

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SHARK WEEK: Not Just for the Discovery Channel Anymore

SHARK WEEK, which had 29 million viewers last year, is becoming some kind of international holiday. It’s not just the Discovery Channel celebrating across the board with MythBusters‘ shark experiments and a reliving of Mike Rowe’s shark Dirty Jobs. But now everyone’s jumping on the SHARK WEEK bandwagon. Even the other networks.

Sharks EverywhereAre You Smarter Than A Fifth Grader? (FOX) features a shark attack victim. Smithsonian Channel has a show on therapy for shark attack victims. The Early Show (CBS) is featuring a shark. My local PBS station had a show on a guy “with an unusual relationship with a shark.” Showtime has a shark movie.

Win a Dream Date with a Shark Researcher! The Shark Research Institute is auctioning off lunches with shark researchers around the globe, starting at $25–plus you pick up the tab for lunch. Chris “Air Jaws” Fallows is the hottie so far, but that’s probably because he’s throwing in a shark tour.

Dueling Petitions.Think Shark Week is too sensational and bloody? Sign this petition of concerned scientists, surfers and other shark lovers.Want more gore 24/7? Then this petition is for you.Want Spain to stop finning sharks? Sign here.

European Shark WeekJust as you would expect from Europe, their Shark Week (Oct. 10-18, 2009) is short on melodrama and long on serious conservation. The Shark Alliance is asking Spain to stop chopping fins off live sharks and throwing the fish back to the ocean to bleed to death.

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SHARK WEEK: What’s More Dangerous than a Shark?

What could be more scary than a shark? Well, even during SHARK WEEK, pretty much anything.

Sharks kill about five people a year worldwide. The Global Shark Attack File chronicles 4,374 attacks since 1845. (They range from that first report, out of Sri Lanka, “Shark bit him in half, carrying away the lower extremities” to the trivial July 24 incident in Spain where some guy cut his foot.)

Sharks are sexier but not deadlier than:

The water the shark is in is thousands of times more likely to kill you than the fish. In 2006 3,600 Americans drowned. Every year 260 toddlers drown in pools. Guns–just the accidental discharges–killed 642 in 2006, according to the CDC. 25 kids a year still suffocate in plastic bags, the Consumer Product Safety Commission says. Upholstered furniture takes out 460 Americans annually (because it catches on fire.) Extension cords kill 50 people a year in the United States (again, through fire.)


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