By Sam Hoober, Alien Gear Holsters
Believe it or not, you’re about as likely to have to shoot an animal in self-defense as you are a human. Start looking at defensive shooting reports by monitoring Google News or Reddit, and you’ll notice almost as many instances of people having to shoot aggressive dogs as aggressive people.
The odds you’ll ever have to use a gun in your own defense, overall, are very, very low. Outside of humans and aggressive dogs, black bears are another potentially dangerous specie that you may encounter. As more housing and other developments in the urban to rural interchange is taking place, they start to wander closer and closer to human populations.
The brown bear, of course, has been mostly extirpated from the lower 48 states. Sustained populations are currently found in three of the lower 48 states (Idaho, Montana and Wyoming) with sightings and purported isolated populations in a few others.
Black bears, however, are found in 36 of the 50 states, and their populations are generally increasing nationwide. They’re found on both coasts, but their population in the Midwest is currently growing. New Jersey is also known for a lot of reports of bears in backyards; this was even written into an episode of “The Sopranos.”
Compounding the problem is the fact that we throw away a lot of food, which they will eat. We also have the habit of keeping pets, like dogs and chickens and so on, which they will also eat. Since fewer of us hunt than ever before – and since some states are loathe to let citizens hunt or otherwise do anything fun whatsoever – that means less to check population growth.
If you’ve never had it, black bear is pretty tasty unless the bear subsists mostly on fish. A little greasy, a little gamey, but it makes excellent ground and/or sausage. It has to be well done, of course; black bear is the most common source of trichinosis along with feral hogs.
This leads to more problem bears, which have less fear of humans and tend to associate us with food. This leads to more bears having to be shot by wildlife officials and by private citizens. Incidents of black bears having to be put down in recent weeks have been recorded in Lake Vallecito, Colo., according to KOB4, in Sunriver, Ore., according to KTVZ, and in suburban Denver, according to CBS Denver.
This isn’t just occurring in little mountain towns or isolated farming communities. They’re in the suburbs.
A black bear recently got into a Subaru near Boulder, Colo., according to CBS4 Denver, managed to bump it into gear, and rode the car right into a tree!
The bear in Vallecito, according to The Journal, had been relocated at least once to keep him further away from people. He was shot by a homeowner when he started visibly stalking the homeowner’s child. He had also been noted for eating chickens in a number of yards in the area.
It’s not even a wholly American problem; Canada has the same problems, such as a problem bear in the small town of Thompson, Manitoba, according to the Thompson Citizen and two problem bears that had to be euthanized in North Vancouver, according to Global News. The bear in Thompson was in a residential area; one of the bears in North Vancouver broke into a house while the residents were in the yard.
It’s generally known how to minimize the risk of a violent encounter with a human. (You know, don’t be a jerk, don’t go to bad places, be vigilant, etc.) How do you minimize the chances of encountering a bear if you live in an area that has them?
First, don’t leave food out for them. Do what you can to minimize food waste, and get a locking trash can if possible. You don’t necessarily have to swear off keeping chickens, but it’s a best practice to keep them in a securely locking shed or barn, especially at night. Pets should likewise be kept indoors when possible, especially at night.
If wildlife officials in your area have advised you to take certain steps or precautions to avoid attracting bears, comply.
In the above-mentioned story that took place near Denver? The homeowner is being charged with a misdemeanor charge of feeding and attracting wildlife. The reason the bear came onto his property was that he hadn’t removed bird feeders from his backyard, which wildlife officials had told him to do after he had called about bears on his property. The bear, a sow, had two cubs, which were relocated…but face pretty long odds for survival.
Bear spray is the most ideal thing to have around, but there is a failure rate just as with pepper spray deployed on humans.
For the last line of defense, black bears have been felled by handguns and long guns alike, but it’s best to err on the side of more lead. Magnum revolvers (.357, .41, .44) and the more powerful autoloading handguns (10mm or .45 Super with outdoor loads) are recommended for handhelds. Better still would be a shotgun loaded with slugs or a medium bore rifle (.30 caliber or larger) kept around the home.
Again, this isn’t a problem isolated to rural or wilderness areas, so this might be something you do have to worry about.
Sam Hoober is Contributing Editor for AlienGearHolsters.com, a subsidiary of Hayden, ID, based Tedder Industries, where he writes about gun accessories, gun safety, open and concealed carry tips. Click here to visit aliengearholsters.com.