After an 11-Year-Old Dies in Attack How Big Is the Bear Threat?

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," June 19, 2007, that has been edited for clarity.

BILL O'REILLY, HOST: "Unresolved problem" segment tonight, the increasing problems with bears. Eleven-year-old Samuel Ives was camping in Utah's American Fort Canyon with his family, when he was dragged from his tent, killed by a black bear, which had bothered other people in the canyon earlier. The bear was subsequently killed by wildlife officials. And the attack happened with such speed, the boy was gone before his family could do anything. Today, Samuel's grandfather said this.


ELDON IVES, SAM'S GRANDFATHER: We are still in shock about this tragedy. It's difficult to comprehend and come into terms with. It's been like a surreal nightmare. The violent way in which he was taken away is a sorrow that may never heal.


O'REILLY: And joining us now from Ottawa, Canada is Dave Salmoni, host on "Animal Planet." Ten years ago, there weren't nearly as many bears in North America as there are now because of conservation and other things. And you know, New Jersey, right across the river, we've got them hitchhiking on the turnpike over there. In fact, we were just talking about "The Sopranos." There was an episode where a bear went to the Sopranos’ backyard. So I'm assuming that the danger from bears is heightened in North America because of their very number?

DAVE SALMONI, ANIMAL PLANET HOST: You know, what? The danger isn't so much in the fact that there are more bears. It's that there's more bears and human interaction. These bears are now being habituated to people. There are bears that aren't as afraid of people as there used to be. And they're finding us as a huge source of food. It's a matter of finding more food in urban areas than they're finding out in the bush.


SALMONI: … like in dumps.

O'REILLY: That's inevitable in North America, in Canada, and the United States when you have so many more bears. They're going to be around people. And people have to eat. And you know, come on.

But my question is...

SALMONI: Yes, but that's a matter of now trying to fix the problem and fix how — you have to find these sources of food and then manage them so the bears can't get at them. So they can get back to a natural state of eating.

O'REILLY: OK. But look, that's an idealistic view. My job here is to warn people. I think there's a heightened danger from this. I think we're going to see more and more of this kind of stuff going on. Am I wrong?

SALMONI: I think that you're wrong in that bears don't cause a big problem if you're avoiding them in the right manner. Like I say, bears aren't coming there, going after people. These bears are going after food. And if you manage that problem in that, you know, having bear safe bins, having bear safe dumps, finding out what it is that's attracting these bears, and avoiding those situations.

And also, informing people on what to do in bear areas.

O'REILLY: OK, but the Ives family said they didn't have any food, all right. And this bear — this is an amazing situation, this bear cut through the tent, grabbed an 11-year-old boy in the sleeping bag, took the bag and the boy in such speed. Because bears, as you know, they're not quiet. All right, got him out of the campsite before the family could react. I mean, that's amazing to me.

SALMONI: Well, it is a heartbreaking story. And it really is a tragedy. But as I said, with these bears learning how to live around people, they're learning that people are dangerous. We're far more dangerous to them than they are to us.

O'REILLY: But this bear went...


O'REILLY: the campsite, cut through the tent to get the boy. The boy was no threat to this bear. The boy was asleep.

SALMONI: And that's a learned behavior. The bear doesn't know that. The bear thinks people are scary. So they've learned to be silent. I've been tracking bears in the bush at times and known there's a bear within six feet of me, and not been able to see it.


SALMONI: They're very good at being silent.

O'REILLY: I don't understand why the bear, if the family was asleep, didn't have any food in the camp site, why does the bear bother to go into the tent and get the boy? Why? The bear can just go around the campsite, can avoid the people.

SALMONI: I don't imagine that that bear was doing that. I don't believe that the bear was going in after the boy. That's not how bears act. They don't just sort of open up a tent and say...

O'REILLY: That's the eyewitness video. That's what the family says.

SALMONI: Yes, but the bear probably went in scavenging for food. Whether there was or wasn't food in there, I don't know.

O'REILLY: OK, but...

SALMONI: But obviously, the reports say there wasn't. But what's happening is this bear has recognized if it lives around a camping area, as we say we know it was...

O'REILLY: That's absolutely right. And I think you just hit it.

SALMONI: It now knows - yes, it now knows that people need food.

O'REILLY: Dave, Dave...

SALMONI: They probably grew up around there.

O'REILLY: Listen to me here. Listen to the city boy, OK?

SALMONI: I'm listening.

O'REILLY: I'm a city boy.

SALMONI: I'm listening to you.

O'REILLY: All right, look, if we have an exploding population of bears, and they associate human beings with food, as they do...


O'REILLY: ...then you're going to have more bears going after people, Dave. Do the math.

SALMONI: No, see there's nothing that proves that. There's absolutely no proof of anywhere — in fact, there's great studies done by a guy named Dr. Lynne Rogers, who's a big black bear scientist in Minnesota. And he's shown that a bear that has habituated to people, and losing its fear of people, have no proof of actually becoming aggressive towards people.

O'REILLY: Well, something happened here.

SALMONI: And this bear probably got into this tent and got scared. He gets in, he gets confined, and then this kid wakes up...

O'REILLY: What's he doing in this tent?

SALMONI: Looking for food. He's now recognized that people are sources of food.

O'REILLY: But that's my point. OK. I think people who have got to be camping, particularly out West and here in the East, in the Adirondacks, places like that, they've got to be very really, really careful now, because I think this problem's going to get worse. Dave, always a pleasure. Thanks very much.

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