I love animals to a level that's probably unsafe. There's a part of me that still dreams of being a magical Doctor Dolittle; after all, I almost had a degree in zoology or environmental science before life took me on a different path. But I still know better: I don't approach bison for an up-close photo, I don't hike alone, and most importantly:

I don't feed the wildlife.

Unfortunately, sometimes the emotional part of our human brains overrides our sense of rationality. After all, how can one believe that such a fuzzy, cute, cuddly bundle of fur with a dumb little face could be anything harmful?

Sadly, a bear fell victim to human compassion in Cottage Grove, Oregon

The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) announced on April 4 that a black bear in Cottage Grove had to be put down - because members of the community loved him so much, they kept feeding him.

As reported by ODFW, the two-year-old black bear had been fed repeatedly over weeks since it first appeared in early March. ODFW and Oregon State Police warned the community, including issuing a warning to a car dealership employee who was feeding the bear - illegal activity under Oregon law.

Attempts over the following weeks were unsuccessful. The Oregon State Police stepped in and killed the bear before it posed a further threat after a woman was cornered by the bear as she attempted to enter her house.

"This is not the outcome anyone wanted. The actions we had to take were a direct result of people intentionally feeding this bear." - Chris Yee, district wildlife biologist

Bears cannot be rehabilitated after becoming human-habituated

Like other wildlife, bears that get used to humans feeding them will lose any fear and come to expect food from any human. This can escalate far beyond a cute face looking for a hamburger - a habituated bear may assume that the human has food and will attack them to find it. They may also attack pets or prey on local livestock.

Because of human conditioning, these wild bears cannot be moved - they will either return to their previous habitat or resume their bad behavior near their new location. Adult bears are rarely good candidates for zoos or wildlife sanctuaries, meaning the most humane solution is usually putting the bear down.

Lesson? If you love them, leave them free

I get it. Animals are beautiful, unique, and adorable. We are even lucky enough as humans to cuddle some of them and share our homes with them. But we need to separate that "aww" part of our brains and think logically about the wild animals around us. This goes beyond bears and other predators like wolves - deer, rodents, birds, reptiles, and any other critters can pose a threat to us.

More importantly, we have to remember that we pose a threat to those animals, too - and learn to co-exist with space between us.

Additional wildlife education:

6 of the Most Common Wildlife You’ll Encounter in Washington State

These 6 wild animals roam the night in Washington State, which is the most likely you'll run into at night?

Gallery Credit: Rik Mikals

LOOK: Washington State's 33 Endangered Species

There are endangered species everywhere in the world, but it can be hard to remember that some of them are close to home. Here are Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife (WDFW)'s list of endangered species in the state, as last revised in February 2022.

Gallery Credit: Jaime Skelton

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