Bruins fed by humans are a threat, filmmakers say

Colfax High sophomores honored for their video PSA
By: Kim Palaferri, Colfax Record Correspondent
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Seeing a bear can be an exciting experience. But, sometimes people get tempted to feed a bear, worrying it might be hungry. However, according to the California Department of Fish and Game, a fed bear is a dead bear. Bears that are fed human food by a person, or even a bear foraging in a trashcan, become problematic and are no longer dependent on a diet, mostly vegetarian, that is natural to them. They will often break into homes searching for human food because they are hungry. A loss of habitat is also why so many bears have filtered into neighborhoods. When a bear breaks into a home, it can cause thousands of dollars in damage, or harm someone. A new program that was introduced by the Department of Fish and Game asked students to create a public service announcement video to help the public become ?Bear Aware.? Schools from around the greater Sacramento area ? including Colfax, Auburn, Nevada City and Roseville ? were invited to participate in the contest sponsored by the California Houndsmen for Conservation, the Bear League and even REI. The film creators were given a list of 10 ideas. They were required to incorporate at least three of them into their video that conveyed the message to not feed the bears. Carol Singleton, spokesperson for the Department of Fish and Game, said they received 40 entries and the top six received cash prizes, including one video presented by a local team from Colfax High School. ?It is our goal to broadcast the PSA videos by sending out DVDs to radio and TV stations to play during high tourist season, from Memorial Day to Labor Day,? Singleton said. After receiving instructions for the PSA video, students in Suzanna Johnson?s Colfax High Environmental Science class were divided into groups of three, including the trio Maryssa Deville, Amanda Shafer, and Erin Bresnahan. After collaborating for two weeks on creating ideas and a script, the sophomore girls met on a Saturday, putting Shafer?s younger Sami sister in a bear costume, and made their video. Using a video camera and some computer processing software, they made their presentation with just a few takes. ?We were pleasantly surprised with this class project, and we would do it again on another project if presented,? Erin said. The primary focus of the video project was to inform people in the Tahoe region that bears should not consume human food and that human carelessness of their garbage can invite the bears to scavenge. That?s an important message to Ann Bryant, Executive Director of the Bear League, who also sat on the judge?s panel for the videos. ?It was exciting to see each team express themselves and what was important to them, and watching how they brought it to life with their imagination,? Bryant said. Bryant said that it was really hard to do the editing process of the videos, and only picking six. ?I?d given out six first prizes if I could,? she sad Bryant. The top prize was awarded to students from Lodi High School. The Colfax High students received an honorable mention and a $100 cash prize. The three Colfax High students said they were not aware of the Bear League or their message prior to the assignment but knew there was a problem even though their own encounters have been somewhat minor. ?We have had only one bear where I live, and so we didn?t much, but we have always been conscious of not putting trash out to attract bears,? Amanda said. According to the Bear League?s website, not one person in California?s state history has been killed by a black bear. Despite their 200-600 pound bodies, black bears are shy in nature; but if fed human food, they will gravitate toward food and humans. Next year, Singleton and the Department of Fish and Game plan to make the film contest a statewide competition.