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Get Help Before the Bear Gets Your Honey

Sep 11, 2007

Dave Hamilton, our furbearer biologist, was working last week to help spread the word on what we can do to live with black bears. On Saturday, he passed away suddenly and unexpectedly at age 52.

It’s hard to comprehend the reality of someone e-mailing you on Friday, then knowing he’s no longer here today. I had intended on doing a blog today based on input from Dave and our wildlife damage biologists.

I’ve known Dave for a long time. When I wrote cell phone movie scripts, I counted on him for his deep interest in helping people understand the lives of mammals, especially the furbearing kind like raccoon, mink, otter, muskrat, beaver, fox and coyote. He wanted to help keep healthy populations of all sorts of wildlife thriving. He tried to help people understand how to sustain and conserve. He worked with landowners, trappers, national and international organizations and local folks to try to maintain trapping for the useful tool it is in managing wildlife and providing furs, which humans have used for hundreds of thousands of years. His passion for creating a healthy balance with wildlife was huge—he was someone who shared it without reservation.

I had sent Dave a copy of a draft of the blog and here’s the last I heard from him on Friday, the day before he died:

“Thanks Lorna and Rex… looks pretty good to me!”

So Dave, we’ll keep up your efforts and continue to spread the word, your words.

Today’s blog:

I was recently reminded of the fact that living with wildlife can be a real challenge. After losing some hives to a bear, a Missouri honey producer in the Ozarks decided enough was enough. Rather than wait for the animal to cause more damage, he shot the 110- to 120-pound male bear. Although landowners can take care of some property damage problems on their own, with certain species, including bear and deer, they need special permission from an agent of the Conservation Department before killing one (unless they’re attacking livestock, domestic animals or humans).

Missouri Department of Conservation staff want to spread the word that we’re more than willing to get a wildlife damage expert out to help people deal with urgent bear situations. Even better, those damage experts can help landowners save money in the first place by offering prevention methods before a bear ever finds the honey. Rex Martensen, who oversees MDC’s wildlife damage control program, told me that electric fences and harassment techniques work well against bears. He said that putting an electric fence around the beehives could have saved the honey producer expensive damage as well as the life of the bear.

As bear numbers increase in Missouri, we’ll need to learn to live with them. And the Conservation Department is ready to help people keep that balance between their livelihoods and wildlife.

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