Forty years ago the black bear was nearly extinct and coyotes were unheard of in Massachusetts. Today the census for both species numbers in the thousands. Hardly a day goes by without some news report of one these critters wandering out of the wilderness and into a city or suburban neighborhood.

Coyotes have been a problem mostly with people’s pets, though there have been a few attacks on people in the region. Interactions with bears have been a little more benign. Take the Cape Cod bear for example.

A couple of weeks ago, a young male black bear was spotted on the Cape, where there had never been one before, at least not since colonial times. It was mostly marauding bird feeders and rubbish cans, and tracking it became a kind of game. As long as it wasn’t posing any serious threat, authorities decided to let it be.

And then they changed their minds. And herein lies the problem.

They decided that there were just too many people around, and if a situation came up where the bear felt cornered or threatened, it could hurt someone. So the decision was made to tranquilize it, and move it back to a more remote area in the western part of the state.

That’s been the standard practice for decades. Euthanizing an animal has always been a last resort, as it should be.

In today’s news, that same bear had made it back east to Chestnut Hill. And again, it was tranquilized and it will apparently be released once again.

At the same time that the populations of these animals has been increasing – in the case of bears, something like 8% per year – so has the human population, and so has the amount of land under development, cutting into their natural habitat – more bears, less space, more people.

It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that humans and large animals like moose, bear, and coyote, are on a collision course.

As yet, there’s no indication as to what measures the state Div. of Fisheries and Wildlife might be contemplating. Their website is silent on the matter. There is some information under “Living with Wildlife,” which is somewhat useful – don’t go near them, don’t leave food out, etc.

 These animals are here to stay, they’re part of our landscape, and that’s good.

But steps need to be taken now to control their numbers, for their sake and ours, before a minor problem becomes something more serious.

Connecticut, which has been experiencing the same trouble as Massachusetts, has instituted a bear-hunting season for the first time in a century. Massachusetts has a bear season, but there doesn’t seem to be any movement toward expanding it.