A bear's diet consists generally of whatever is available, but is made up primarily of vegetable matter—berries, shrub fruit, and roots. They also eat grubs, ants, rodents, and.of course, honey. Few things give old man bear more pleasure than tearing into a bee tree where he wallows in the honey, apparently unmindful of the irate buzzing bees. The black bear's varied eating habits frequently get him into trouble that is his downfall. Conservation.wardens in bear states are often roused from bed in the wee hours of the morning by a telephone call from a farmer who has suffered an unwelcome visit from a bear. Usually the "guest" has visited the sheep pasture for some fresh mutton, the orchard for apples, or the apiary for a honey feast. Occasionally, however, the visitor has gone after a bigger meal. The warden records in one northern state show a recent complaint where a bear tore boards off the side of an ancient barn to get inside where it killed a cow and calf. This bear, along with others like it that become trouble makers, have been removed from the scene by the wardens. Some states pay farmers for damage caused by bear. Game officials would rather that a bear be taken by a hunter instead of killed on a complaint, and this is another reason for the early hunt in some states. Bruin's dietary habits have made him important in another aspect of outdoor recreation. This is the appetite that he has developed for the garbage in rural dumps. Thousands of tourists wait at dumps on summer evenings for their first look at a wild bear. Because many of the "city folks" apparently fail.to realize that they are dealing with a wild animal, they do foolish things, such as approaching the animals at close range and even offering them food from their hands. "Someone is going to get hurt," a warden warned, and cited the more than 100 bear injuries recorded annually at Yellowstone National Park. Bear are less dangerous to the hunter who, of course, is usually armed with a high-powered rifle. Of some 500 successful bear hunters who responded to a game questionnaire, only four of them reported that the animal charged them after being shot. These charges, which could have also meant that the bear was simply traveling toward the hunter in confusion to escape, were all stopped in plenty of time with additional shots. Admittedly, it is a lot more fun to chase a bear than to be chased by one, and that brings us back to where we started. You can be a bear chaser simply by putting yourself on the scene. Contact a state conservation department where the hunts are held for details on participation. And, remember, bring your running shoes.
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