Here at The Washington Post, bear-related news ranks surprisingly high on our list of general interests.
Normally, we like to give you fun bear-related news, because, man, bears can be a real delight.
But that content strategy went up in flames Thursday, when we saw this headline on the Concord Monitor’s website: “After bear deaths linked to chocolate, N.H. Fish and Game to propose changes to bait regulations.”
So, here’s what happened: Officials in New Hampshire say the remains of four bears were found near a bait site a few months ago, the newspaper reported. A longtime hunter reportedly used “90 pounds of chocolate and doughnuts” as bait, and a necropsy and toxicology report later found the animals had been poisoned by theobromine, which is found in chocolate.
The bears suffered heart failure, the Monitor reported.
“We are a landmark example,” the state Fish and Game Department’s bear project leader, Andrew Timmins, told a commission when discussing the cases.
Now, we should pause here and note that this Post reporter was previously under the impression that chocolate was super bad for all animals — like, universally, just never a good idea. But that is probably because her dog once ate some chocolate then threw up on her Confirmation dress when she was a teen. This reporter is neither a longtime hunter nor a wildlife official, so she’s clearly no expert.
Here’s what the Monitor reported:
Theobromine can, at high doses, be toxic to bears and other species. Its effects have been studied and documented in dogs, cats, rodents and humans, but its impact on bears and other wildlife species is largely unknown, according to Fish and Game.
There is no perfect formula for determining how much chocolate is too much chocolate, he said. Biologists have to factor in the type of chocolate, the amount of intake and the size and metabolic rate of the animals. While baking chocolate is known to have high levels of theobromine, white chocolate and milk chocolate have low levels.
“The bottom line is all types of chocolate can be toxic. It depends on how much they take in,” Timmins said.
Good to know. For what it’s worth, there were some Chocolate Truthers at the Fish and Game Commission hearing, including Dave Nickerson, who was curious about whether the bears had ingested antifreeze.
“This is the first time we’ve had four dead bears at one site,” Nickerson, who was in the audience, told the Monitor. “It highly suggests that poisoning could have occurred.”
So did the chocolate kill the bears? Again, I’m no expert, but we’ll go with “yep, sure seems like it.” Apologies to Dave. Anyway.
This whole thing bums me out. Let’s all just watch this video of the bear with a bucket on its head and remember the happier times.