Hacker News new | comments | show | ask | jobs | submit login
Barbearians at the Gate (atavist.com)
39 points by samclemens 5 months ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 15 comments



I don't support the author's conclusion that if the NH or Grafton government more tightly controlled individual liberty then situations where some people feed bears and some people's livestock are fed on by bears wouldn't happen and those people wouldn't go go of their way to hunt bears illegally and the implication that somehow that end result would have been better.

The author's concern over the legality of killing a bear that eats your livestock or going bear hunting because there's a problem with bears eating livestock/pets and various other cases seems misplaced. When fish and game deals with a bear they'll tag it and relocate it. If they relocate it close by and it comes back and gets caught again they'll either kill it or relocate it to somewhere far away. In the latter case the bear is just as removed from the local gene pool as a dead one is and one that's learned to rely on humans for food it will either do that again in the new location or have a high risk of starving. The author could have taken the opportunity to focus on the impacts of illegal hunting in Grafton on the local bear population and how that would have affected the rest of the food chain in the area. That would have been much more interesting than just tossing in some criticism of small government to conclude the article.

Everything has trade-offs. Having more interactions between wild animals and human civilization is just a trade-off of making it harder (than in decades past) for people to hunt them. Allowing some people to feed those animals is going to increase interaction even further. This should come as no surprise. I think the people of Grafton would much rather put up with bears than put up with laws that require people to do or not do particular things in order to avoid interactions with bears.


"It’s compelling to imagine that a horde of bears, zombified by a brain bug that triggers risky behavior, is terrorizing a small American town. But that’s more likely the stuff of science fiction than of good science."

I'm not so quick to dismiss that possibility. I'm having trouble finding info on Toxoplasma gondii's specific effects on bears, but considering the apparently-unusual taste these bears seem to have for cats, there definitely seems to be a connection there. Probably coincidental, but it's too tantalizing of a possibility to ignore.


It's an interesting story to me, but I wish there was a shorter, more to-the-point version that I could bookmark/share.


Bear stories are great. Except for the politics, this article feels like sitting around a campfire talking shit over beer and marshmallows.

I grew up in Alaska, where we have been dealing with this for a little longer. Actually, most of us were pretty opinionated about it (hey CJ, not here to judge, sorry about those chickens). I think people down south have to reinvent the wheel when bear populations decline and recover. It took time to develop cultural and institutional solutions to the problem, but once we had those the bear population never declined to such extent that we discarded them. It isn’t completely solved but it’s manageable, at least in my home town. My friends’ chickens only get eaten by dogs and eagles.

It is considered crucial to avoid acclimating bears to humans and trash, because the bears will inevitably be killed. The city experimented for years with a variety of solutions. Bears were captured and released far away from the town, but they returned for food. Attempts were made to condition them against eating trash using startling noises, chemical bittering agents and powerful emetics. None of this worked, although some bears that consumed the emetics learned to temporarily avoid only the contaminated foods (they would consume everything at the experiment site except hamburger and spaghetti).

Eventually city ordinances required that all trash and food waste be secured in bear proof containers, and that these are not brought to the curb until pick up day. As far as I know this is the only thing that ever worked. Unsecured trash is such a nuisance that this was mostly enforced socially in my neighborhood. I don’t know anyone who has admitted to getting a fine. Outdoor food composting is impracticable, but so is conventional gardening due to climate.

Black bears are routinely encountered around town in the spring and summer. It is important to be attentive, so as not to startle or corner them. People will lean out of doors and windows to warn passers when bears are near. Occasionally a peanut gallery of gawkers can be seen laughing from a second story downtown while an unfortunate person scurries from one doorway to another trying to find a an open door.

I don’t know anyone who has been hurt by a black bear. However, brown bears (and cubs of either species, because they have mothers) have a higher pucker factor. We have a family friend who lived in an area farther north with more brown bears. He lost half of his family to a brown bear attack while berry picking. Brown bears are not common in my home town but are seen occasionally. It is believed that they only kill humans when they are threatened or starving to death, but they still scare the shit out of me. Nearby areas in which they are common are to be avoided if possible. I have known a few people that hunt deer in such places (Admiralty Island, for example) but this is considered risky. Deer are usually hunted with high powered rifles as a precaution. Handguns are good for making loud noises, but even the most ludicrous hand cannons are considered underpowered for actually trying to kill a bear. They say if you shoot a bear with a .44 mag you should save one for yourself. Lots of people have bear mace. It’s nice to have a good dog with you in the woods. Dogs can alert when a bear is near and I have seen them harass a bear into leaving. I haven’t seen a dog get hurt by a bear, but it is scary to watch. Some dogs display a great enthusiasm for this and will not stop when you want them to.

Most people I know consider shooting a bear a serious fuck up that ought to come with a very good excuse. My friends take game salvage laws seriously as a matter of principle, and killing a bear condemns the hunter to choose between many hours of back breaking labor or abandoning a kill. Roads in my area were limited by topography, and hunting often happened far from them. I only know a few guys who have killed a bear. A friend of mine sheepishly explained that it was following him on a trial while he was hiking home with a back pack full of deer meat. He said he couldn’t scare it away, and he didn’t want to take chances because he has kids. He had to call for help to deal with it, and report the kill to the authorities. He said by the time he got home he felt worse then the bear. If you follow the salvage rule (or your conscience) you will be stuck with a mountain of bear meat. I haven’t tried eating bear but they are said to taste like they smell, and they smell terrible.

I believe that in such cases a report must be filed with the Department of Fish and Game to excuse the hunter from poaching unless they have bear tags. I have never know about anyone except tourists that trophy hunted so I don’t know how hard it is to get bear tags. I think it’s expensive for black bear, and almost impossible for grizz. I haven’t checked and it has never come up because killing a bear on purpose is generally considered a Dick Move.

It is really tempting to anthropomorphize animals and I think this is part of what makes bear stories so great. The Tlingit and Haida literally idolize them in totems, and have a wonderful mythology that includes stories like Raven stealing the sun.

(If you have never watched ravens you should. They use tools and solve problems with a compelling but alien intelligence. They are the original hackers. When I was younger one of my neighbors rescued an injured raven and kept it as a pet. She named him Frankie. Frankie could unlock his own cage from the inside, and mimic human speech in a gravelly whiskey and cigarettes voice that sounded like Janis Joplin’s angry ghost. It was absolutely spine chilling.)

Animals can also do things we can’t. In their native environment their endurance cannot be equaled by humans. A deer or a bear will continue to fight or flee when grievously injured. Unlike a human, they will not give up when they are freezing, filthy, cold, wet, or starving. They can negotiate the most appalling terrain and endure horrifying physical punishment. By comparison, we are pathetically fragile and easily capitulate.

Anthropomorphism is fun, but I think the reason animals are like this is that they can’t help it. It’s a mistake to attribute bear behavior to reason or social motives involving particular humans. Bear problems are mostly solved by not feeding them. They are just hungry, and they have one job.


From the one paragraph I was able to read this seems interesting, unfortunately scroll is so terribly broken on this site I can't make any further progress.


Hi, I live in Grafton county.

Bears killed my chickens and frequently loitered around the coop when I replaced them and strenghtened the structure of the coop. They also clamber up trees to steal bird food if we leave it out past the time that the game wardens recommend that it be left out.

I have in fact filed reports with the game wardens when they show up on my property during daylight and nothing has ever happened (sorry fans of North Woods Law).

Bears steal my garbage every time I leave it out after a certain time of the year. They drag the bags through the woods leaving litter behind them until I clean it up. So after the bears wake up I have to keep garbage in my basement.

I have friends over the border in Vermont who say that the bears don't bother him and his neighbors that often because they shoot them more frequently so they become more person shy.

This quoted paragraph is absurd:

>He diagnosed a kind of xenophobia: People are often frightened of black bears for no good reason. Sure, the creatures are big—they can grow to 500 pounds or more—and they’ve got sharp teeth and claws. But according to Fish and Game’s public-education campaign, “Something’s Bruin in New Hampshire,” which is intended to “enhance public tolerance towards bears,” the animals “do not typically exhibit aggressive behavior.”

Yeah, I'm a xenophobe because I don't like having to spend a half hour or more cleaning up after a bear adventure or replacing broken bird feeders and replacing dead livestock. I'm irrational or just a dumb hick if I don't want my dog to die if he gets in a fight that he can't win with a black bear. It's not 'phobia' when bears live on your land or right next to it and frequently raid your property: it's a rational prudence that comes with living near wild territory.

That document mentioned also is nothing about increasing 'public tolerance for bears' and everything to do with teaching people what to do to limit the damage that they do to your property and your animals. You can read it yourself here, like I did before encountering this article: https://wildlife.state.nh.us/pubs/documents/samples/somethin...

You have to go out of your way to find hobos and 'poor rural stock characters' for this minstrel show in text in Grafton, which has a median household income of $58k and lots of affordable land. The county is also pretty big as far as this state is concerned and contains many more towns than just the one detailed. There are also bear hunting permits you can get that ration how many people can hunt it in any one season and overall the state does a good job in controlling the population without the hunting getting out of control.

A libertarian can easily go door to door all day long here and never meet someone who even knows what the word 'libertarian' is supposed to mean. It has nothing to do whatsoever with the bear issues which are tricky but mostly under control. The bear hunting season is short but it does a lot to keep the population under control. Vermont has exactly the same issue with bears and they address it in a similar way.


>I have friends over the border in Vermont who say that the bears don't bother him and his neighbors that often because they shoot them more frequently so they become more person shy.

Exactly. Deer, turkeys, addicts looking to commit property crime in order to finance their next fix, basically anything that people occasionally shoot is far more people-shy in northern New England than southern New England. Bears are no exception.


Does New Hampshire not let anybody with a license hunt bears? I'm more familiar with Maine law, where a resident hunting license also allows you to shoot a bear, at least during deer season. You can hunt them in other seasons, and using bait or dogs, with a cheap permit.

Most of the problem bears that come through already have tags in their ears from where they've been picked up and released somewhere else. A couple years ago my folks had one grab their birdfeeder with NY, Vermont, NH and Quebec fish and game tags already.


>loitered around the coop when I replaced them and strenghtened the structure of the coop.

How does one bear-proof a chicken coop?

I once saw a port-o-potty that was literally torn in half down the middle. It looked like a car after an accident. When I asked the ranger what happened to it she told me that a bear cub had fallen in and the mother bear just ripped the thing open like a cardboard box to let her baby out.

In other words, seems to me like a sufficiently determined bear could probably make quick work of anything short of a bank vault no?


My chicken coop is not a great example coop. It's a shed the previous homeowners converted into a small coop.

In round 2 of reinforcement that has lasted for two years without incident I used heavy 2x4s drilled into the wall to cover the hatch that used to be there. Round 1 I used some thin plywood to cover the hatch that the previous homeowners had installed. That was destroyed by a bear (and before people ask I used a night wildlife camera to see what was happening). The guy just ripped it off. They have not bothered the heavier duty reinforcement.

Other people in the area have had bears kill chickens but the highest kill count I have heard about came from minks, which was over 2 dozen in one night. Apparently at some point in the past someone was trying to run a fur farm with minks, and when they went belly up they released all of them into the woods. Minks and similar small predators are really effective at breaking into buildings and killing helpless/dumb creatures.

Black bears are tiny dudes compared to grizzlies. They are pretty strong and very athletic, but they are not huge dangers to people unless you do something really stupid. They are more hazardous to livestock, dogs, and property. Deer and moose are more actively hazardous to people and far more numerous because they don't really understand the whole concept of looking both ways before crossing the road.


This is surprisingly only the second time I've heard of minks going after chickens. The first was when I was commiserating with a cashier at Tractor Supply after my neighbor's dogs found a weak spot in the fence around my coop and killed all but one of the flock. The cashier had lost one chicken a night to a mysterious predator that he finally tracked down. It turned out to be be a mink living in a hollow tree.


Good lumber should do the trick just fine - a couple inches of wood will do a much better job stopping claws than the 1/8" plastic that port-a-potties are made of


What kind of bear/where in the country was this? It's grizzlies & kodiaks that you'd want for breaking into bank vaults.

Black bears are comparatively a little less adept at the whole can-opener thing, though I'm not surprised a portapotty (aka plastic box) didn't stop a bear, regardless of breed.


Black bears are pretty small for the most part. Athletic, but on the smaller side.


How does one bear-proof a chicken coop?

My feelings exactly. I thought it was bad enough having to guard against racoons, possums and the occasional pack of dogs breaking into my chicken coop. Bears? Would be like Game Over, Man!




Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact

Search: