Equilibrium is everything in nature and one small change in any part of that balance will be felt throughout the ecosystem.

Call it the butterfly effect. Call it the law of unintended consequences. Call it cause and effect. Regardless of the name, it means the bears are hungry this year and are foraging and marauding in the cornfields. The bears are simply hungry and opportunistic and are trying to maximize calorie intake before hibernation.

The problem is not necessarily too many bears. It has to do with habitat and food. This summer’s drought caused many berries (on which the bears rely) to wither rather than get plump. The drought or spring storms have made for a lean apple crop.

Humans have encroached with their houses and development into bear habitat, building houses where food sources may have been.

So what should we do? As one reader of The Valley Reporter points out in a letter this week, it seems cruel to let the bears starve.

But it also seems foolhardy to set a precedent for feeding them. The Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department is adamant about reducing bear/human interaction and reducing opportunities for bears to rummage through the garbage or the compost or the birdfeeder.

When it comes to wildlife populations, the state “manages” the various herds via how many bear, deer and moose hunters are allowed to take. And that may be the more humane thing to do than to let bears starve.

How we co-exist on the planet with all its sentient beings is important and when possible we should err on the side of kindness (and, as the Dalai Lama says, “it is always possible to err on the side of kindness”).

In this instance, kindness does not translate into teaching wild animals to be dependent on human intervention. Kindness in this instance means minimizing starvation and minimizing human/bear interaction.

People may disagree on the merits or humanity of hunting and eating meat, but in this instance, it may be the best solution to a very thorny issue caused by manmade and natural imbalances in our environment.