A black bear has been spotted wandering around North Carolina with a Trump 2020 sticker slapped on its tracking collar. Political allegiances aside, wildlife experts are warning that this is a foolish stunt and potentially dangerous for both the bear and the public.
The black bear was photographed on July 31 while taking a quick nap on a porch in north Asheville, North Carolina. As the images show, someone managed to apply a sticker supporting Donald Trump's 2020 presidential campaign on the tracking tag of the bear. The bear is also fitted with two tags in its ears, which are also used to track its whereabouts.
Help Asheville Bears (HAB), who were among the first to share the images, were initially looking to find the culprit by offering a $5,000 reward for any information about the persons responsible. The group started monitoring black bears around Asheville following numerous reports of three-legged bears that lost their limbs to illegal traps.
Speaking to IFLScience, Jody Williams from HAB said they have since found and contacted the person who applied the sticker. The person claims he applied the sticker as a protest against the use of tags and collars on local bears.
"He’s agreed to stop as this has garnered lots of attention, especially on the tags and collars," explained Williams.
Needless to say, scientists have strongly condemned the protest. The tracking devices are used by researchers from North Carolina State University and the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to gather data on black bear ecology in an urban setting. The researchers on the project say the stunt could put local people and bears in danger.
"Whoever has done this has helped this bear become food dependent. Doing so has put both public safety and the bear at risk," Dr Chris DePerno, a conservation biologist who is involved in the Asheville bear study program, said in a statement to IFLScience.
"The likeliest explanation for the sticker is that someone has habituated this bear to the point where it has lost its natural wariness of people, likely by feeding it," Dr DePerno continued.
"Researchers are not responsible for this troubling incident. These professionals would never politicize their research or objectify the animals in this manner."
Unfortunately, this is the second time in recent years a sticker has been placed on a bear’s tracking collar.
The focus of the concern isn’t just on people; there are also worries for the bear. The sticker is brightly colored and sticks out against the bear's dark fur, which could mess with its ability to stealthily hunt for prey and makes it more susceptible to hunters. Ironically, the Trump Administration has made it easier for people to kill bears by opening up wildlife refuges to hunting and loosening restrictions of bear hunting, so it's unlikely they would get its vote.
Black bears are North America's most common bear, found across 12 provinces and territories of Canada, six states of northern Mexico, and 41 US states. While this shy species is not as aggressive as their grizzly cousins, they have been known to attack humans if they're hungry, provoked, or threatened.
In other bizarrely related events, a polar bear was spotted in late-2019 with “T-34” scrawled on its body in black spray paint. How someone got close enough to a polar bear is anyone's guess.