Bear biologist Maria Davidson educates people, relocates wayward bears
If you Google “Maria Davidson” and “black bear,” you’ll get many news reports along the lines of “There’s a bear over there!” That’s because Louisiana black bears occasionally wander out of their normal backwoods habitat into those of humans.
As the Large Carnivore Program manager for the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF), Davidson and her staff are responsible for tracking, catching and sedating wayward bears in order to relocate them, unharmed, to uninhabited areas.
Davidson says, however, that the problem of human/bear conflicts is not going to be solved by bear bounty hunters.
“To correct the problem,” she says, “we have to work with people.”
Davidson says it’s easy to understand why bears can be drawn to residential areas.
“You just have to consider the comparative effort a bear has to make between foraging for acorns – its natural food – and raiding your garbage can,” says Davidson. “A bear would have to collect 467 acorns to get the same number of calories as in someone’s discarded Kentucky Fried Chicken combo.”
So part of her job is to be proactive by encouraging communities to take measures not to attract bears in the first place, such as getting into the habit of keeping garbage indoors in a secure shed or garage until time for pick up.
Davidson also plays a significant role in implementing a collaborative effort among federal, state, academic, non-governmental, and private landowner partners to restore the Louisiana black bear to unoccupied portions of its historical range.
“I’m really proud to be part of a recovery effort of a bear species,” she says. “It’s a pretty daunting task in this day and age.”
Davidson has been working toward the recovery of the Louisiana black bear population since she began her tenure as a biologist with the state agency in 1997.
“It’s very rewarding,” Davidson adds, “to be able to go to a bear den and see bears in the wild do what bears are supposed to do.”
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