Robert E. Klein/AP

Don’t Feed the Bears: You Might Get Arrested

June 05, 2009 06:30 PM
by Cara McDonough
An Oregon woman has been found guilty of harassing wildlife after feeding bears outside her home. She says she’s doing nothing wrong, but neighbors call her actions reckless.

Animal Lover Faces Prison Time

Karen Noyes, 61, says she is innocent of wrongdoing. But the Yachats, Ore. woman is facing a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $6,250 fine, The Oregonian reports. When the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife discovered pictures of Noyes feeding bears outside her home, the Lincoln County district attorney's office charged her with chasing and harassing wildlife, and recklessly endangering another person.

But Noyes sees nothing wrong with her actions. According to The Oregonian, she said, “If you feed the birds, you feed the bears; if you feed the raccoons, you feed the bears.” She added that she lives in a hunting community and people are trying “to wipe the animals out.”

Some of her neighbors disagree, however. At her jury, which began Thursday, The Oregonian reports that neighbor Dena Pickner said she grew so scared of one aggressive male bear that her ex-husband had to pick her up in the morning to drive her from her house to her barn. She awoke one night to the bear trying to get in through a dog door.

An Alaska man shares Noyes’ line of thinking. Charlie Vandergaw, who has been coexisting with bears for the past 20 years, now faces charges as the state “is using a beefed-up law to prosecute Vandergaw for feeding bears,” the Associated Press reports.

Although some believe the state should leave the 70-year-old retired teacher alone, Sean Farley, a research biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, says the bears near Vandergraw’s house outside Anchorage have become very bold. Farley told the AP about documentary filmmaker Richard Terry who “got whacked and dragged across the yard by one of the bears during filming.” Farley also noted that “Charlie has been nipped and slapped around.”

Are Noyes’ and Vandergraw’s activities dangerous? Or is the law going too far? “I think basically what I do is my business as long as I'm not hurting anyone,” Vandergraw told the AP.

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Related Topic: Timothy Treadwell

One worry is that feeding the bears could bring about the fate of fellow bear-lover Timothy Treadwell, who was mauled to death—along with his girlfriend—by grizzly bears in 2003.

Treadwell spent years in Alaska’s Katmai National Park, living among the bears. He acted as their self-appointed advocate and attempted to educate the world on their plight.

The Seattle Times reviewed “Grizzly Man,” a documentary by German filmmaker Werner Herzog about Treadwell’s life, in 2005. “If the celebrity grizzly bear conservationist Timothy Treadwell sought to raise public awareness about the uneasy coexistence between man and beast in the Alaskan outback, and the wisdom of separating the former from the latter,” wrote Tyrone Beason for The Times, “then he succeeded in the most ironic way possible.”

Reference: Bear safety


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