The deaths of two female bears and two cubs at a trapping site in New Hampshire may lead to a state ban on using chocolate as bait. In large amounts, chocolate is toxic to bears.
The two female bears and two cubs were found dead in September. A necropsy and toxicology reports later confirmed they died of heart failure caused by theobromine, an ingredient in chocolate that is toxic in bears, the Associated Press reported.
The reports prompted the leader of the state's bear project to suggest stop using chocolate as bait in New Hampshire at a meeting on Wednesday.
“We view bear baiting as an important management tool,” he said. “It's not something we want to go get rid of, but perhaps some modifications need to be made to determine bear baiting practices to eliminate the chances of chocolate poisoning our wildlife.”
Already, the state's Fish and Game Department has asked hunters to use chocolate in small doses or avoid it entirely. The amount of the toxic ingredient varies per type of chocolate, and it's not exactly known how it affects mammals of varying sizes, department officials wrote on their website.
“While theobromine poisoning has been studied and documented in wild and domestic dogs, cats, rodents and humans, per-pound toxicity levels for bears and other wildlife species remain unknown at this time,” officials said.
Concerns about the sweet bait first arose in 2010 after a bear cub in Michigan died from eating chocolate. The bait has also been documented to cause animal deaths in Pennsylvania, and several states have recommended against using it or banned it entirely.
The hunter in New Hampshire who left the large stack of bait told WMUR he has used various types of chocolate as bait for 15 years. He did not give his name but said he was devastated by what happened.
Any changes to New Hampshire's hunting policies would require a formal proposal, a public hearing and vote by the Fish and Game Commission.