Friday 23 February 2018

Bear becomes backyard spectacle

A Louisiana black bear has spent the past week of so up a tree in a Louisiana neighbourhood (AP)
A Louisiana black bear has spent the past week of so up a tree in a Louisiana neighbourhood (AP)

A young black bear has been a backyard spectacle in a central Louisiana neighbourhood where he has spent the past week up one tree or another as he searches for a new home.

The bear is among three to five that have wandered into populated parts of Louisiana in the past 10 days, said wildlife biologist Maria Davidson, head of the large carnivore programme for the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

It is on the outskirts of Marksville. Another has been spotted in Jonesville, about 35 miles (56 kilometre s) north-northeast of Marksville, since Thursday or Friday, Ms Davidson said.

It is the season when mother bears chase off yearling cubs so they will not be attacked by any big males that come calling. Females often wind up within visiting distance of a mother bear, but males are not allowed to.

"It's somewhat nature's way of preventing inbreeding," Ms Davidson said.

The males, about a year-and-a-half old and weighing about nine stone, go on cross-country jaunts.

This one showed up in Marksville about May 10.

"That's my little grandchild," joked Patsy Trevillion. "I've been watching that bear since Wednesday."

That was when she spotted him about 20 to 25 feet (6 to 7.5 metres) up the big water oak between her garden and that of next-door neighbour Dennis Carmouche.

Mr Carmouche said he got home from work that day and saw the bear in the tree. "I was shocked, amazed - 'What's a bear doing in my yard?'" he recounted.

Ms Trevillion called a game warden she knows. She said he told her, "Tell everybody to back up and maybe he will leave."

But the bear hung around, apparently too frightened to leave.

"They're still young enough that when they sense danger, their first instinct is to go up a tree," Ms Davidson said. "They know they're safe up a tree, even though it happens to be right in the middle of a neighbourhood."

After a couple of days, state biologists set a trap in Mr Carmouche's garden. The bear went in, chowed down on the bait, and trundled back out without stepping on the trigger plate and closing the trap. He has also made a nest of branches in the tree, she said.

On Sunday, Mr Trevillion said, biologist Ken Moreau made the trap a bit trickier, putting doughnuts under the trigger plate. He also put cat food or tuna into a tube, which he was attaching to the end wall to make the bear work to get at it.

Bear-watching isn't unmitigated joy for Mr Carmouche. "I've got a little seven-year-old girl. We can't let her go outside by herself. My wife has got a little daycare at home. We've got to keep the kids in," he said.

The bear is comfortable going in and out of the trap, and sooner or later he will step on the trigger plate, Ms Davidson said.

Mr Carmouche posted late yesterday on Facebook that the bear did apparently step on the plate but was able to get out again.

Once he is caught, the bear will get a standard work-up - blood and DNA samples, ear tag, and microchip.

Mr Davidson also plans to fit him with a GPS collar that will take a location every three hours. "It will give us a really good idea how a dispersing animal can pick and choose his way through a fragmented landscape," she said.

Press Association

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