There’s little doubt that Eugene Cifers has a soft spot in his heart for animals. While that may be an enviable attribute, there’s still such a thing as going too far.
The Lake Mary, Florida man has been charged with feeding bears in his neighborhood. Florida Fish and Wildlife investigators say photos show Cifers feeding a bear and that they found evidence outside his house that points to his pattern of behavior.
Last April, one of Cifers’ neighbors was attacked outside her home.
“You can see claw marks, so she just missed my eye,” said Terri Frana.
Wildlife officials say while investigating that case, two residents told them they’ve personally seen Cifers feeding bears. Others claim Cifers has shown them photos of him giving the animals food.
The wildlife experts added that bears have a keen sense of smell and remember people who have fed them before and that wildlife investigators also found “a regularly-used animal trail” leading to his property and a large amount of bear scat on his lawn.
Cifers has hired an attorney and is fighting the claims against him.
While feeding wildlife seems like a kind gesture, the act can have some detrimental circumstances for both the animals, pets and people. As demonstrated in this incident, animals can become acclimated to handouts, lose their natural fear of humans and become brazenly insistent if denied their goodies. Unlike Yogi trying to stealthily snatch a picnic basket, real bears may aggressively demand it. Animals like skunks and raccoons also lose fear and may try to gain access to unwelcome areas.
Animals may also begin to rely on these unnatural food sources and may lose both the desire and the necessary skills to find instinctive food sources which then puts them at risk of simple survival.
While it’s fun and generally harmless to feed birds or the local squirrels, my personal and professional opinion is to stop there. If you would like to really help wildlife, habitat and natural food source improvements are better ways to “be kind to animals”.
Along the Way:
The Division of Wildlife is offering waterfowl hunters special drawings for controlled hunting opportunities. The drawing dates and times are:
• Magee Marsh Wildlife Area early teal and goose hunt: Drawing will be held at Magee Marsh on Wednesday, Aug. 13 at 6:30 p.m. Registration is from 5 p.m. to 6:20 p.m. Magee Marsh Beach parking lot, 13229 W. Ohio 2, Oak Harbor.
• Pipe Creek Wildlife Area early teal and goose hunt and the East Sandusky Bay Metro Park early teal and goose hunt: Drawing will be held at Osborn Park, 3910 Perkins Ave., Huron, on Thursday, Aug. 28 at 6:30 p.m. Registration is from 5 p.m. to 6:20 p.m. Participants are required to present their current or previous year’s wetland stamp or resident hunting license. Youth hunters should bring their 2013 or 2014 resident youth hunting license.
• Pickerel Creek’s early teal and goose hunts: Adults and youth can apply for the adult morning hunts. Only those 17 and younger can apply for the youth afternoon hunts. Successful applicants receive a permit and instructions by mail and may bring up to two guests to hunt. Permits are not transferable.
To apply, submit a 4×6 inch postcard listing name, address, customer ID number and phone number and labeled at the top either Adult Teal or Youth Teal. One postcard allowed per applicant. Mail to: Division of Wildlife District 2, 952 Lima Ave., Findlay, Ohio 45840. The deadline is Aug. 8.
Step Outside:
• Monday: No Child Left Indoors for kids ages 6-17, 5:30 p.m. The Broken Bird Gun Club, 23251 Delaware Township 186, Forest. Contact 419-722-6771.
• Tuesday: Women on Target, 5:30 p.m. HCCL, 13748 Jackson Township 168, Findlay.
• This week at the UCOA, 6943 Marion Township 243, Findlay: Tomorrow: IDPA Pistol Match, 10 a.m. Thursday-Friday: Trap and skeet, 5 p.m.
Abrams is a retired wildlife officer supervisor for the state Division of Wildlife in Findlay. He can be reached at P.O. Box 413, Mount Blanchard, OH 45867-0413 or via e-mail at