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Science absent in bear management in Sandias

Much is being said and written about the food-for-bears situation in the Sandias. It’s the central question in the current controversy over diversionary feeding – or not.

The mind-numbing thing is how the question is being addressed by the antagonists – N.M. Department of Game and Fish vs. conservationists – and by the media taking its notes without a clue on where clarity lies.

The agency from Albuquerque sends its expert into the mountains to assess the natural food: “Well, it’s not great but there’s some there; it’ll be a lean year for bears but they’re survivors.”

I went up into the Sandias to see for myself, checking 10 east-side sites. I reported back that while there’s a pretty good crop of Juniper scopulorum berries, the Gambel’s acorns are few and mostly stunted at best. There’s not much assessment disparity between the agency and me.

Big question: Are the sampled parts here representative of the whole bear range of roughly 100 square miles?

In both accounts, the correct answer is “don’t know.”

That is, on what basis does either account extend its tiny judgmental samples to the entire foraging domain of wild bears. If we rule out clairvoyance then there is none, including an “expert’s” or layman’s opinion, hunch.

The reporter should have had enough perspicacity to ask the agency man: “Is your assessment a scientifically sound one? Oh, how so, please explain. But, your department claims that its wildlife projects and programs are scientifically based.”

Clearly, with regard to Sandia bear management, science is absent.

Apparently, the department’s unstated plan and program goal is to aggressively reduce the population to some level – what, 10 or so? – so that it is no longer an annual nuisance headache for them.

Questions about what constitutes a viable, self-sustaining, free-roaming population of bears – well that’s complicated. Besides, it doesn’t matter because the agency obviously perceives itself as a power unto itself, answerable only to its select constituents (the hunters) and of course the simplistic, un-ecological laws of city and state.

That’s the territory.

In the future, when the print media gets an opportunity to report on the operations of this public agency, its readers – the public – look forward to an exposure of the department’s collective reptilian brain. “But is it science Mr./Mrs. ‘biologist?’ How so?”

Jeffrey A. Davis lives in Sandia Park.

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