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4 New Hampshire Bears Died from Chocolate Overdose Due to Baiting

4 bears were found dead in New Hampshire from a chocolate overdose near a hunter’s bait site. 

Last September, four bears (two adults and two cubs) were found dead near a hunter’s bait site in New Hampshire.

According to a report, conservation officers found the dead female bears within 50 feet of the bait sight, where an unidentified male hunter had placed 90 pounds of donuts and chocolate. After eating the donuts, the hunter said, the bears consumed all the chocolate.

The necropsy and subsequent toxicology reports revealed that all four bears had died of heart failure brought on by theobromine poisoning. Theobromine is a natural substance found in all types of chocolate and is toxic to many animals, even humans. But scientists aren’t quite clear as to how much chocolate is too much.

Andrew Timmins, bear project leader for the New Hampshire Fish and Game Commission, told the Fish & Game Commission on Wednesday of the case:

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

The case has understandably caused Timmins and his staff to review and propose changes to New Hampshire’s bear baiting policy.

It what seems like an actual case of cooler heads prevailing, Timmins 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.”

At a public meeting, the changes that were presented were to simply outlaw bear hunters from using chocolate at their bait sights.

It’s refreshing to see wildlife officials approach a case like this with a sense of reason. Contrary to the opinion of many non-hunters, baiting bears does not make them easily harvestable. Bears, whitetail deer, and other types of game animals don’t lose their survival instincts simply because there’s a pile of corn (or chocolate) on the ground. To simply outlaw baiting would severely reduce the ability of the state to manage the bear population.

It does, however, raise a question as to the ethics of baiting. As any hunter will tell you, baiting animals (not just bears) turns hunting into mere target practice. The question, then, is how far to take baiting (and other supplemental feeding) efforts? Should the state step in and outlaw certain substances from being used as bait? Should the principle of fair-chase ethics rule the day, or should hunters be allowed to use whatever substance they choose?

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4 New Hampshire Bears Died from Chocolate Overdose Due to Baiting