I've always supported and understood the science behind proper wildlife control in West Virginia through hunting, trapping and fishing. And I'm certainly not an extreme animal activist. But the way that the bear incident was handled during the early morning hours of May 1, has left me feeling embarrassed and disgusted. After reading the story in the News and Sentinel, following the dialog via social media and speaking with my friends, including witnesses, it's clear that the majority of local citizens are just as upset.
A few folks cite a desire by authorities to "shoot first, ask questions later" which may be partially true. However I feel the problem stems from laziness of those involved. It was easy to sell a "public safety" angle, as confused folks conjured up fearful thoughts of the possibility of a bear running through Parkersburg, flying through living room windows and devouring residents in cold blood. It's just not true!
It's also possible those who made this decision were hedging their bets against the American love of "the kill." It seems nowadays that media coverage of death is of great appeal to folks.
As a lifelong Parkersburg resident, I've never known of a citizen being harmed by a bear. I've backpacked and hiked extensively in the Otter Creek, Cranberry and Dolly Sods wilderness areas and have yet to confront a bear. These areas are home to the densest bear populations in the state. Any naturalist knows that bears avoid humans at all costs unless human error or foolishness threatens them. They hear, they smell, they head the other way.
Overwhelmingly, folks I've spoken with believe that this bear should have been tranquilized, transported to a more suitable habitat, tagged and released. Study the animal and if it became a recurring nuisance, further steps could have been taken to remedy any real danger posed to area citizens. There are countless examples of relocating stray bears by these humane methods. A state boasting "wild and wonderful" is incapable?
Some are calling for a resignation, others a firing. I feel that area taxpayers deserve at the minimum a formal apology. Ursus americanus, the American black bear, the official state animal of West Virginia and now a sad example of poor decision making and laziness on behalf of those we entrust to serve us and professionally perform their jobs on our dime.