Skip to comments.Women who fed bears on trial in Lincoln County (OR)
Posted on 05/28/2009 7:13:25 PM PDT by jazusamo
NEWPORT - When Dena Pickner awoke to a commotion at her Yachats house last June, she expected to find a raccoon. Instead, she climbed out of bed and saw a black bear coming through her dog door.
"His head was stuck and he couldn't get out," Pickner told those in a court room at the Lincoln County Courthouse here this morning. "He grunted, backed up and took the dog door with him."
Two weeks later, the black bear was dead, one of four shot to death in a four-week period last summer in Yachats.
Now a Yachats woman is on trial for feeding the bears - and allegedly putting herself and her community in harm's way.
Karen Noyes faces four counts of chasing and harassing wildlife and five counts of recklessly endangering another person. Each carries a maximum penalty of one year in prison and a $6,250 fine.
"She created a situation where bears weren't afraid of people anymore," said Lincoln County Deputy District Attorney Elijah Michalowski . "People were telling her she needed to stop, yet she refused. She not only put herself at risk, she put all her neighbors at risk."
Noyes insists she's done nothing wrong.
"I feed bears; it's not illegal" said Noyes in a telephone interview before the trial. "Fish and Game has made a big deal out of this. They have made up their minds that bears are dangerous."
Noyes, 61, said she started feeding the bears several years ago when a large one showed up as she fed the birds.
"It scared me. Then I thought 'why should I feed them and not him?'"
One summer, she said she fed as many as 25 of the animals on a regular basis.
"Right now, I've got a half a dozen," she said. "They are perfectly safe. They are timid and really sweet."
At least until they are hungry. Last summer, Noyes went on vacation. When she returned, a bear broke her window.
"He was not doing it maliciously," she said. "He was knocking on the garage door and accidentally broke the window."
Noyes called Fish and Wildlife looking only, she said, for help in getting the bear to leave.
But Tami Wagner, the biologist who took her call, said Noyes was scared.
And she wasn't the only one.
Pickner has lived on Yachats River Road since 1973, and is about four-tenths of a mile from Noyes' house. She'd never seen a bear on her property until last summer. Most of the bears ran when she yelled. Except for one. That bear was close to 4 feet tall on all fours, and weighed about 300 to 400 pounds, Pickner guesses.
"He was not afraid of me. Even when he got stuck in the dog door, he just sauntered around."
Nearby, Vicky and Derek Prince, who raise endangered farm birds, saw so many bears last summer that they refused to walk the property unarmed. They said the bears tore down fences and crushed sheds. Then, one night, a bear broke into the turkey house.
"He ripped open the side of the barn and annihilated our flock," said Vicky Prince. "We lost 60 turkeys."
The trial continues today when the court will hear the defense's star witness, Lynn Rogers , a biologist featured on Animal Planet TV's "The Man Who Walks With Bears."
"This is the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard of," said Rogers, who is staying with Noyes during the trial. "What Karen was doing was reducing the bear problem by feeding them here, then hungry bears don't have to go elsewhere.
"There is no science behind any of these charges," he said. "They are made by people who have no knowledge of bear behavior, people who haven't walked with bears as I have for 42 years."
The trial, being argued before Judge Thomas Branford, is likely to go to the jury Friday or Tuesday.
Karen is a moron.
We have bears living on the mountain behind us, and I wait until midnight before the 4 A.M. garbage collection to put any food refuse in the garbage can. Feeding bears turns an animal you can probably live with into a problem bear.
I imagine her neighbors are beside themselves. I lived in a rural area of southern OR and if any of my neighbors had done this I’d have had Fish and Game there in a hurry.
She sure is. Everyone knows bears love pic-a-nic baskets.
Bears eat alot. how do these idiots justify spending that much money on bear food to feed that many bears? If they are all getting fresh produce like in that pic, the grocery bill has got to rival a house payment.
I’d bet she’s crazy enough to think they would starve if she didn’t feed them
Well, if there’s 25 of them living within a leisurely stroll of her house, she’d probably be right. 25 bears in one neighborhood just isn’t natural.
The neighbors better get a pack of pitbulls, right chet?
“One summer, she said she fed as many as 25 of the animals on a regular basis.
“Right now, I’ve got a half a dozen,” she said. “They are perfectly safe. They are timid and really sweet.”
Yeah and I bet they think she tastes like chicken. Why can’t she get better hobby like raising 50 cats in her house. What a loon.
OMG! Ha she never seen the National Geographic show about the guy who lived with them and eventually was eaten by the bears? Now that the bears know where the food no one is safe in that neighborhood.
LOL! Good one. I wonder what she thinks of those cuddly polar bears now.
She’s certifiable. Saw the video on that, still don’t know how she survived.
Uh, how about because bears can rip your head off, and little birdies can't?
(...just a thought...)
And proud of it, apparently!
If I was the neighbor, I'd be suing her for the lost turkeys too.
When Ya Hots, Yachats!
Pray for America and Our Troops
And at the end of subsidizing the bears do you have fewer bears or more bears? ---- this idiot woman is clearly a socialist.
I remember that our wildlife group got called to search for an elk that was stranded among huge homes in the middle of a very populated neighborhood....the neighborhood had lots of trees and vegetation.....the idiot neighbors thought it nice to feed the momma elk....sure enough, she had her calf....and her calf lived long enough to know what it felt like to be torn apart alive by the neighborhood pet dogs.....
bears and wolves and cougars for that matter would be no problem at all if they had FEAR of man....but since we have the morons treating them like kitty cats, we'll see more and more terrible happenings...
She should leave her door open so that the bear does not have to use the doggie door.
Then, take the screens off her open windows to let in the bugs.
Hah! She just may.
It appears this woman has more serious problems than just being an AR nutjob, she should seek help from a shrink.
Comments on Ms. Noyes remind me of my own opinions many years ago, before I began professionally studying bears and their behavior.
I too once believed that anyone feeding bears created problems for themselves and everyone else. By luring bears to their homes for treats, these people taught bears that ANY human home is a good place to find a meal and that humans can be treated with contempt.
Indeed, I once had to dispatch two bears which had previously been lured to a cabin by handouts and garbage. When the supply of treats dried up, one of the bears broke into the cabin and threatened the people inside (and later outside). After shouts and other threats failed to drive the bruins away permanently, killing was the only other way I knew of terminating their depredations and threats towards humans.
I too believed that the safest bears are those that fear people and flee from us.
I too believed that any bear that didnt avoid people was dangerously bold i.e., contemptuously disrespectful and likely to attack.
I too believed that black bears are almost as dangerous as grizzly bears.
I believed all those things then, and within limits, I believe them now. Within limits, means of course, that what is true in some circumstances is not true in all circumstances; there are exceptions to each rule. More importantly, I have come to understand why exceptions occur and to learn ways of making them the norm.
Which brings us to Karen Noyes. Has her case followed the alleged rule that feeding bears making them more likely to raid other peoples homes and possibly to endanger the people? Or has Karens case been one of several known exceptions where feeding bears actually reduces depredation and danger to humans? Likewise, is it one of the many known exceptions where bears losing their fear of people actually reduces risk to people? To answer these questions, lets look at the facts of Karens case as objectively as possible.
Fact 1: Last year, natural foods for bears were extremely scarce in much of Oregon.
Fact 2: Bruins are no fonder of starvation than are people. Throughout North America, shortages of natural foods send bears far and wide seeking alternative nutrition. Without scientific evidence to the contrary, we must assume that the same thing happens in Oregon.
Fact 3: Famine often leads to a major increase in nuisance behavior by bears. This relationship between natural food shortages and increased nuisance activity by bears was first documented by David Hatler in Alaska following a failure of the blueberry crop (around 1968 as I recall). It has also been documented by Dr. Lynn Rogers (a witness for Ms. Noyes) and several other biologists. Spikes in bear depredations have also followed shortages of berries or other fruit, nuts (e..g., beech nuts), or salmon from the east coast to Minnesota, to Montana to California to British Columbia and Alaska. Without scientific evidence to the contrary, we must expect that the same thing happens in Oregon
Fact 4: Indeed, last year’s famine in Oregon was accompanied by a record level of bear depredations across the state. Without scientific evidence to the contrary, we must assume that the same thing would have happened in the Yachats region of Oregon, where Ms. Noyes lives, whether or not she (or anyone else) fed the bears.
Fact 5: The only way one could reasonably penalize Ms. Noyes is if her actions aggravated the famines impact i.e., if by feeding and befriending bears, she cause a higher level of nuisance behavior and aggression towards people than could be explained solely by the famine and other influences beyond her control.
So far as I know, the State of Oregon has provided no such proof. Instead, it is relying on speculation on assuming that this case follows what the public believes to be a general rule, without actually researching the factors that separate out normal scenarios where feeding has led to problems from exceptional scenarios where feeding has just the opposite effect. This lack of due diligence is irresponsible - reminiscent not of democracy and rule of law, but of political power plays by bureaucrats too lazy to do their homework or too narrow-minded to think critically outside the box of their preconceptions.
Fact 6: The three traditional ways of minimizing bear depredations are to
(a) minimize availability of garbage, pet food, bird food, fruit, and other artificial food sources.
(b) Scare away or haul away any bear that ventures near people or communities.
(c) Kill any bear that cannot be scared away or hauled away permanently.
Those methods work sometimes; but not always. For the bears remain hungry and our homes and communities continue to reek of food. Put simply, bears go where the food is much as you would do if you were famished or starving.
Thats why a fourth option can be highly effective: provide an alternative food source that lures bears away from people and communities. Bears drawn to a feeding site are diverted away from the homes of people who don’t want visits by the bruins. Food provided by Ms. Noyes likely diverted bears away from the homes of her neighbors, reducing any problems bears might have posed for them. They owe her thanks, not complaints.
Fact 7: One neighbor apparently accused Ms. Noyes of addicting bears to handouts, then leaving the area for an extended period, forcing her bears to seek food at other peoples homes. In fact, she never leaves home for more than a day during the season bears visit for food.
However, even if she had taken a brief vacation from feeding bears, this would raise a critical question. Once Ms. Noyes began diverting bears away from her neighbors, was she somehow obligated to keeping doing so? This would be like saying that if a soup kitchen feeds homeless people for several days until it runs out of food, then the soup kitchen is responsible if one of the homeless people later steals food from a grocery store. Wouldnt it be truer to conclude that the theft would have occurred sooner but for the soup kitchen and that keeping the soup kitchen supplied with food is one of the best ways of minimizing grocery theft?
Fact 8: Critics might argue, of course, that a soup kitchen could draw vagrants from far and wide. Diverting homeless people away from more affluent areas might reduce thefts in those areas, but only at the expense of bringing more potential thieves into the region of the soup kitchen, and thereby promoting theft in that region whenever the soup kitchen ran out of food. So too, even if Ms. Noyes did divert bears away from distant areas, perhaps she increased the number of bears in her own neighborhood and thereby actually increased local depredations.
Drawing an exceptionally high number of bears into her neighborhood is certainly a possibility. But possibilities are not proofs. What evidence does the State offer that the number of black bears within say a few miles of Noyes home was any higher than in similar neighborhoods where no one intentionally feeds bears?
And again, what evidence does the State have that famine alone cannot account for all nuisance behavior in the neighborhood where Noyes lives?
If and when Noyes is forced to quit feeding bears, will depredations rise or fall? If depredations fall, will the authorities claim this is proof that Noyes had caused a spike in depredations, which the authorities have now terminated?
Or if depredations rise, will authorities also blame that on Noyes, claiming that the culprits are bears which she addicted to handouts, and that the rise in depredations is a withdrawal symptom?
If the State can claim victory no matter what happens after feeding is terminated, isnt Noyes equally entitled to claim success so long as feeding continues?
Fact 9: The State also assumes, of course, that all or at least some of the depredations in Noyes neighborhood were caused by bears which she fed. But where is the proof? Does the State have photos, video tapes, DNA samples, paw prints or any other evidence proving that these are the same animals? Or is the State once again assuming its conclusions, substituting circular reasoning for true scientific logic?
If someone steals a six-pack of beer or a bag of Fritos from a convenience store within a mile or few of a soup kitchen, does this prove that the thief had previously eaten at the kitchen?
Democratic rule of law requires proof beyond a reasonable doubt. Proof, not speculation masquerading as fact, used to flim flam a jury. Never forget that prosecutors arent after justice; they arent trying to learn the limitations to their assumptions or gain new insights into the reality of bear behavior. Pure and simple, prosecutors are out to win. Truth be damned.
Fact 10: Anyone who thinks that befriending bears makes them more dangerous has never met a befriended bear, and does not understand what makes bears tick.
(a) Each year, tens of thousands of people watch wild bears at distances of 10-100 yards. Because this is usually done using proper safety precautions, viewers are almost ever hurt by the bruins. The few viewers who have been attacked, such as Tim Treadwell, were NOT using proper safety precautions. Jumping to conclusions that Ms. Noyes was equally careless is simply unwarranted. Fiction, not fact.
(b) On average, once every 2 years, one of North Americas 600,000 to 900,000 back bears tries to kill 1 of the millions of people these bears encounter. So the odds of Ms. Noyes or anyone else being attacked by a blackie is very tiny.
(c) Most serious or fatal attacks by black bears are predatory. Hence, we would expect them to be most common during famine years and in situations where the bears are famished. Diversionary feeding of bears, as Ms. Noyes has done, should reduce that risk, not increase it, contrary to claims by the State.
(d) Black bears occasionally defend themselves or their food by swatting or biting a person. Even this small risk can be minimized by winning the bears trust, as Ms. Noyes has done.
In short, were the Court and jury to decide Ms. Noyes fate on the basis of these well-established facts, they would find her not merely innocent, but something of a local heroine. Instead of trying to condemn Ms. Noyes, the State she be learning from her.
For additional authoritative information about effects of feeding or befriending bears, visit the website www.bear-viewing-in-alaska.info and read these books (sold through the website)
a) Beauty Within the Beast
b) Alaska Magnum Bear Safety Manual
c) When Bears Whisper, Do You Listen?
Also visit Dr. Rogers’ website www.bear.org/website
One or two bear attacks per year? We have at least two or three times that many in B.C. every year.
Freeper kanawa could tell you something about bear attacks.
I doubt I'll read (your) testimony in the trial of Mrs. Noyes but I imagine much of it will be word for word of parts of your post.
So the odds of Ms. Noyes or anyone else being attacked by a blackie is very tiny.
If you or Mrs. Noyes were to ask a relative of an adult or the parents of a child killed by a black bear about the tiny odds of being attacked by a blackie I believe they would say in the case of their loved one it was 100%.
You can put all the supposed facts out there you care to but the fact remains that bears are predators and they shouldn't be attracted purposefully to residential or rural inhabited areas, that just seems like common sense to me.
they would find her not merely innocent, but something of a local heroine.
Not to belittle you in any way but that statement is way over the top.
Black bears are dangerous. They can and do kill people.
Black bears quickly become accustomed to human activity, which leads to aggressive food gathering habits.
Black bear have also been known to stalk people following them or circling .
Actually, no, I am not Dr. Rogers. I am Dr. Stephen Stringham. I have personally had over 10,000 close encounters with grizzly and black bears. I have been researching their behavior for nearly 40 years.
I agree with you that bears should not be purposefully attracted to inhabited areas. However, what evidence — rather than speculation — do you have that she attracted bears to any inhabited area, rather than drawing bears from surrounding inhabited areas to her own home? What evidence do you have that she increased risk of either depredations or human injury to anyone but herself? What evidence do you have that even the risk to herself was significant?
Yes, bears are predators. (Dogs are also predators and kill a LOT more people than black bears do.) But black bears prey primarily on small mammals, fish and invertebrates. That’s why Dr. Rogers in Minnesota and I in Alaska (previously also in California, Montana, upstate New York and Vermont) have rarely worried at all about being attacked by the black bears. Yes, there is risk. But compared to all the other risks we face in daily life, risk of black bear attack is very small.
We sympathize, of course, with anyone who is injured or whose loved-one is injured — whether the injury comes from falling off a bicycle, being involved in a car crash, being bitten by an animal, downhill skiing, etc. (Remember how the wife of actor Liam Niesson recently died of a minor fall on a bunny ski slope because she whacked her head on the snow and her brain bled. I too have been injured skiing, doing gymnastics, spring-board diving, driving a pickup, etc.; a hunter’s bullet once grazed my ear. Yet who among us would advocate banning any of those activities, all of which can injure people as badly as a bear can? ) The issue is not whether life has risks, but how much risk is added by any given thing we do or someone else does.
Please don’t let the severity of the worst bear attacks mislead you into thinking that the probability of such attacks is high. There are situations which do produce high attack risk, and other situations minimize risk. From what I know of Ms. Noyes’ actions, they likely reduced risk overall in the region where she lives.
If increasing risk to people would be a crime, why wouldn’t reducing risk be a virtue? Maybe “heroine” is too strong a word, but decades of experience with bears suggest to me that she has done her community a service, not harm.
As in most of life, the benefit or detriment of an activity depends not just on the kind of activity, but on where, when and how it is conducted. To take just one more example, shooting firearms in a school is far too dangerous for anyone but whackos to consider; but shooting in the deep woods is considered acceptably safe even though hunters occasionally kill innocent bystanders. Indeed, when I visit salmon streams where anglers are armed with rifles and shotguns, I am far more worried about being hit by a stray bullet than by a bear — a sentiment shared by a great many Alaskans.
If you are really interested in cutting edge knowledge about bear behavior, rather than just in perpetuating conventional “wisdom,” read the references I listed. I suspect that you, like my students, will be amazed about how badly the danger of bear attack has been exaggerated, and how readily bears become good neighbors.
Will we ever see you again on this forum? The post-mortem we've got planned ought to be illuminating.
I suspect you would be amazed at how many people are actually killed yearly by black bears. You are an idiot. There was an article on FR two days ago about a person who fed bears very similar to the woman in this article. Guess what? She was eaten by, wait for it, a black bear just this last week. How amazing is that? I have been around bears and other wild animals since I was a child, I am now 67 years old and I am here to tell you that if you feed a dangerous wild animal you will either get yourself or someone else killed.Period.
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