(CBS4) — A mother black bear had to be put down and her cubs were relocated after being fed by visitors at Grand Teton National Park.
On Thursday, Oct. 4, visitors in two separate vehicles along the Signal Mountain Road were seen feeding fruit to three black bears, the National Parks Service said in a statement.
“The bears, a sow and two cubs of the year, each received several food rewards during the incident and made contact with several vehicles along the road,” officials said.
“Feeding wildlife in a national park is a serious offense and presents severe risks to the animal and to humans,” Grand Teton National Park Deputy Superintendent Gopaul Noojibail said. “Human carelessness doesn’t just endanger humans, it can result in an animal’s death.”
Officials said once bears associate people with food, they can become aggressive in seeking additional food, especially when preparing to hibernate for the winter.
Animals that are fed by humans also have an increased likelihood of being drawn to roadways and killed by vehicles, officials stated.
“Since June, these bears have been frequenting several developed areas in the Signal Mountain vicinity in very close proximity to people. Park staff and volunteers spent hundreds of hours trying to keep park visitors and these bears at safe distances from each other, near a busy park campground and lodging area,” officials stated.
“Due to the bears’ comfort with humans in developed areas, and, most importantly, behaviors that associated humans with food, posing an unacceptable risk to public safety, the three bears were captured and removed from the park,” officials said.
The mother bear was approximately 4-5 years of age and was not a good candidate for an educational or zoo facility, officials said. She was euthanized.
“It was a difficult decision for park managers, who are responsible for the welfare of both wildlife and people in the park. The loss of these animals removes the opportunity for this bear family to contribute to a healthy, wild population and for visitors to enjoy them in their natural setting,” said officials.
The cubs are being moved to Oswald Bear Ranch in Newberry, Michigan.
Two visitors were cited for illegally feeding wildlife within the park. The maximum penalty for feeding park wildlife is a $5,000 fine and up to six months in jail.