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MARQUETTE, MI – (Great Lakes Radio News) – An association of Zoological parks in Michigan is opposing legislation authored by an Upper Michigan lawmaker, pending in Lansing, that would allow public contact with black bears that are up to nine months in age and weigh up to 90 pounds.
The bill, by State Senator Tom Casperson, stems from an Upper Peninsula bear ranch which last year had to discontinue allowing visitors pose for photos while feeding black bear cubs, because it was against state law.
The Association of Zoos and Aquariums in Michigan opposes the legislation, saying when young bears become used to people, they can become an even greater hazard to the public and law enforcement officials when they become adult bears. It also says that bears can transmit a variety of serious and potentially fatal diseases to humans through close contact.
But the Oswald Bear Ranch near Newberry says it’s safe, noting that the snapping of photos of people feeding black bears has been a popular feature at the ranch, which opened in 1997.
The legislation has passed in the State Senate and is now before the House.
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