Activist cited for violating bear feeding ban

April 17, 2008 4:22:24 AM PDT
A one-time member of an anti-hunting group that pushed for programs to teach people how to co-exist with black bears has been cited for illegally feeding the animals.

Susan Kehoe of Vernon received a written warning Wednesday for violating New Jersey's ban on feeding black bears, a state official said.

Department of Environmental Protection spokeswoman Darlene Yuhas said state wildlife officials observed the the 58-year-old woman sprinkling sunflower seeds around her property and once tossing a bag of sunflower seeds to a bear.

The surveillance was undertaken after complaints from residents in the rural residential area in northwestern New Jersey, where most of the state's estimated 1,400 bears live, Yuhas said.

The DEP and environmental groups discourage humans from feeding bears so they do not come to rely on people for food.

"Black bears that are fed either deliberately or unintentionally by carelessly leaving out food or garbage learn to associate people with food and that causes them to become a nuisance," said Yuhas.

Kehoe was once a member of the Bear Education and Resource Group, which opposes feeding wild animals like bears, but she let her dues lapse, said the group's director, Janet Piszar.

Members of the Bear Group risk revocation of their membership for being caught feeding bears, Piszar said. The group believes feeding bears puts them at greater risk of being killed because they have become aggressive or have invaded a home.

Kehoe and her lawyer, Bill Strazza, did not return messages seeking comment.