Society

Bears Accidentally Killed By Chocolate Spur New Wildlife Concerns

| by Amanda Andrade-Rhoades

In September, four bears died after eating bait loaded with chocolate. Now, New Hampshire’s bear expert is proposing a ban on trapping bait that contains chocolate. 

Two female adult bears and two cubs were found dead less than 50 feet from 90 pounds of bait that consisted of chocolate and doughnuts, the Concord Monitor reported. At the University of New Hampshire, a necropsy and toxicology report found the bears died of heart failure, which was caused by theobromine, a natural and toxic ingredient found in chocolate.

In high doses, theobromine can be toxic to animals, but the effects have not been sufficiently studied in bears. 

“We are a landmark example,” Andrew Timmins, the state Fish and Game Department’s bear project leader, told the state Fish and Game Commission Wednesday.

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“The case in New Hampshire perhaps represents one of the most significant cases for two reasons,” he said. First, the concentration of dead bears found at the site is unprecedented, and, second, a direct link between chocolate and the death of an adult bear is rare.

Timmins argued that chocolate needs to be removed from where bears roam. “The most efficient, effective and enforceable way to eliminate this in the future is to eliminate the chances of any species becoming toxified by chocolate, and to remove chocolate from the woods,” he said. “We view bear baiting as an important management tool. It’s not something we want to go get rid of, but perhaps some modifications need to be made to determine bear baiting practices to eliminate the chances of chocolate poisoning our wildlife.”

The hunter, who has not been identified, told the state he has trapped for 15 years and uses chocolate at other hunting sites. 

The deaths appear to have been unintentional.

Source: Concord Monitor / Image via U.S. Fish And Wildlife Service Headquarters/Flickr