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This Oregon bear became an online celebrity, but food and selfies led to his death

Despite pleas by authorities to stay away, fans of a young black bear at Henry Hagg Lake in Oregon kept feeding it, causing it to become too habituated to humans, wildlife officials say. They killed the bear.
Despite pleas by authorities to stay away, fans of a young black bear at Henry Hagg Lake in Oregon kept feeding it, causing it to become too habituated to humans, wildlife officials say. They killed the bear. Washington County Sheriff's Office

Authorities begged people to stay away from a cute young black bear at Henry Hagg Lake in Oregon, but they wouldn’t listen, The Oregonian reports.

Visitors to Scoggins Valley Park at the lake west of Portland just kept feeding the photogenic bear and taking selfies with him, KGW reported.

After finding the bear, now something of an online celebrity, once again surrounded by piles of junk food on Thursday, state wildlife officers decided he had become too used to human contact to be relocated, the Statesman Journal reported. They killed him.

“This is a classic example of why we implore members of the public not to feed bears,” said wildlife biologist Kurt Licence, The Oregonian reported. “While the individuals who put food out for this bear may have had good intentions bears should never, ever be fed.”

The Washington County Sheriff’s Office and the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife began receiving calls about people feeding the bear at the popular lake June 4, the Statesman Journal reported.

They also started seeing selfies with the bear, a 2- to 3-year-old male weighing about 100 pounds, on social media, according to the publication.

On Wednesday, Washington County deputies wrote on Twitter they were trying to move the bear back into the woods and asked people to stay away. But he just kept coming back.

On Thursday, state wildlife biologists trying to trap the bear for relocation found him eating piles of trail mix, sunflower seeds, cracked corn and other food left by visitors, KGW reported.

“We got within 20 feet of the bear,” Licence said, according to the station. “It showed no reaction to us, no reaction (to) the passing cars we were within, and it’s just unnatural behavior to be (that) close to people.”

The bear had become too habituated to humans to safely move because of the risk of future dangerous contacts with people, The Oregonian reported.

“Black bears are eating machines and develop bad habits quickly,” said Doug Cottam, a district biologist for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Statesman-Journal reported. “It’s in their best interest for people to make them feel unwelcome.”

It is against Oregon state law to feed wildlife, KGW reported.

“We’re sad it ended this way,” said Deputy Brian van Kleef of the Washington County Sheriff’s office, the Statesman Journal reported. “Obviously no one wants to see a bear get killed, especially its many human fans. But I think it was the human interaction that ultimately led to its tragic end.”

Oregon has 25,000 to 30,000 black bears, according to The Oregonian.

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Don Sweeney has been a newspaper reporter and editor in California for more than 25 years. He has been a real-time reporter based at The Sacramento Bee since 2016.
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