Is Long Lake euthanizing its bear-friendly image one creature at a time?

Their images dot the signs of real estate firms, pubs and diners, ice cream parlors, on homes, at the public library and in front of the general store, where the animal’s visage marks the entryways of the ursine emporium.

Long Lake’s logo of a mother bear guiding her cub is emblematic and immediately recognizable as a symbol of the Adirondack community, splashed onto countless items of merchandise.

Yet the creatures these days are also causing havoc in the community — hunting for food, breaking into homes and generally acting destructive — leading the state to euthanize four of the creatures in the tourist town this summer.

The surge in activity has the town abuzz.

“All of those bears were super-uber destructive,” said Jules Pierce, owner of Hoss’s Country Corner. “They did a lot of damage and it doesn’t do anyone any good when a bear is trying to break into your home with a newborn (bear cub) — or an RV park.”

Yet others acknowledge while the black bear does present a threat when placed into conflict situations with humans, they believe the locality should do everything possible to prevent what the state Department of Environmental Conservation refers to as a “humane euthanization” of the creatures.

“Why do bears need to die because of human misconduct?” wrote resident Caleb Davis in a letter published in the Hamilton County Express on behalf of a coalition of concerned Long Lakers. “Only we can prevent some dead bears. This park is their rightful home.”

The dilemma poses an existential question for a town whose bear imagery is central to its identity.

Many in the community have long since learned to co-exist with the Bruins by leaving lights on at night, securing trash and broadcasting to tourists that they are not cuddly companions, but potentially lethal creatures that can peel back garage doors, trash kitchens and rip off-car doors.

“They don’t bother me,” said resident Laura Young. “But I also don’t want to go outside at night and have one eat me.”

Between 50 and 60 percent of the state’s bear population lives in the Adirondack region.

The DEC has euthanized 16 bears in 2022 in northern New York to date compared to only two last year, the highest number since 2018.

The state agency refers to problematic bears as “nuisance” creatures and uses a scale to determine their threat to the public and when they should be killed.

Jeremy Hurst, a big game biologist with the DEC, said four of the 16 euthanized bears suffered severe cases of mange, a skin disease characterized by mites burrowing deep into the epidermis.

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