BARING, Maine — A yearling bear hungry for handouts has been causing traffic problems on Charlotte Road as dozens of drivers line up to feed it a snack.
William Kolodnicki, U.S. Fish and Wildlife manager of the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, said at least 20 cars were lined up along the road that goes through part of the refuge over the weekend, feeding the bear and taking photos.
“We don’t care if people take pictures, but they must stop feeding the bear,” Kolodnicki said. The bear has figured out that the cars rolling by carry food, he said, and patiently waits for the delivery of sandwiches, french fries or cookies.
“But a yearling bear could easily rip the door off a car,” Kolodnicki said Monday. Black bears are unpredictable and have keen smell receptors, he said, and at other national parks, bears have seriously injured sightseers in an attempt to get at food in their vehicles.
Kolodnicki said the problem is exacerbated because the bear is hanging around a particularly dangerous section of the road, in the vicinity of Young’s and Mile Bridge roads.
“This is the same section of road where a fatal accident happened several years ago. There is a bad curve in the road,” Kolodnicki said. “When bears are fed by humans they lose their fears, become accustomed to people and traffic. This could lead to the bear eventually being struck and killed by a car or additional unsafe and unwelcome contacts with people.”
He said the stopping vehicles are also making the roadway even more unsafe.
“We see bear there in that same area every year,” he said. “I think he found some garbage and that started the ball rolling.”
Kolodnicki said he does not know if the bear is male or female.
The wildlife manager said New Hampshire, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania have laws that strictly prohibit the feeding of bears by the public. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife recently issued a news release, “Tips for Minimizing Nuisance Bears,” that can be found on its website at: www.maine.gov/ifw/news_events/pressreleases/2011/05-11-11.htm.
Kolodnick said The Code of Federal Regulations prohibits feeding wildlife in National Wildlife Refuges. “Do Not Feed the Bears” signs have been placed along that part of Charlotte Road, he said.
The last known black bear attack in Maine was in September 2010 when a bear hunting guide, who was using dogs to track a bear, was charged and injured in Township 5 Range 7.