“I see kids for violence and anger issues who are trained hunters by age 12. How can I help in fighting this scourge? The state agencies are recruiting women and children at an alarming rate — they have the funds and the access.” — Karin McKenna, school counselor
In July a Madravenspeak reader emailed a link to an Alaska Dispatch news story of a black bear family’s last afternoon. He said, “It is one of the saddest stories I have seen.” The story has pictures of a mother bear with her two spring cubs, swimming in a lake together, frequenting some tourist spots in East Anchorage. “She didn’t show any aggressive behavior, but there was just so much accessible garbage,” so the state agency, comparable to our Department of Natural Resources (DNR), decided to shoot the mother, and haul the babies off to an Alaska zoo. Bears are being killed for just showing up.
As shown in this video of a mother bear reaching over a concrete traffic barrier to rescue one of her cubs, a lot of care and attention goes into raising cubs in a human-dominated world. Yet the DNR is exultant to be obliterating spring cubs or yearlings in their annual kill. Wisconsin kills over eight times as many bears as are killed in New Hampshire, half of them female, yet I have never heard of orphan cubs rescued here. It is confounding that Ben Kilham rehabilitated 27 orphan cubs in New Hampshire last year. Do our cubs just wander around until they die after their mother is shot out of a tree?
Bears do not breed before they are 3 years old. The mothers teach their cubs to forage and how to den, warming them through their first winter. They have babies only every other year. Under the DNR’s rapacious policies, most bears here are killed when they are 2 years old or younger, so they never reach breeding age. It is inconceivable that the bear population remains at 22,000. In the past five years, the DNR has orchestrated the killing of 21,997 bears, plus it issues hundreds of “agriculture tag” bear kill licenses annually (not in the kill count ) and still they claim the population has hardly decreased.
All one has to do is look at wolves to know that regardless of how many are killed, the DNR will claim there are plenty more to kill. The DNR did not stop the quail and sharp-tailed grouse killing until hunters could not find any.
In Wisconsin, bears fall to an insatiable appetite for running packs of dogs and thrill killing. The kill runs Wednesday, Sept. 3, through Oct. 7 with 10,460 permits issued to kill 4,700 bears, the highest number of permits ever issued. The use of dogs is promoted by the DNR all but the first week. Since July 1, according to the DNR, wolves have killed nine dogs during “hound training.” Additionally, unlimited enthusiasts can pay $14 and run more dogs and set bait, and can give 10-year-old kids a second shot at a wounded bear. Lessons in empathy for children, no doubt.
On their bear hunt website the DNR gloats, “Our regulations are designed to provide for a high quality experience through a long season with high success rates. It’s no wonder we have so much interest in bear hunting! With over 108,000 applicants, 2014 is another record year. We are fortunate to have such a large group of passionate sportsmen and women committed to Wisconsin’s bear population.”
What a twisted perspective.
The DNR regulations put wildlife at risk in more ways than mass killing. Baiting bears April 15 through the kill habituates them to human food, motivating bears to intrude on human garbage and residences, endangering property and their own lives. Canada’s public parks have signs warning, “A fed bear is a dead bear.” On a New Jersey bear protection site are listed the many ways that baiting harms ecosystem health. There the Wildlife Conservation Society cites a New Mexico case study showing that “when (human) food was made unavailable, bears were capable of living in close proximity to humans without conflict.”
Unfortunately the DNR does not care about bears. It cares about killing bears, exhorting bear killers to “enjoy your time with family” and explains how children 10-16, without hunter education, can have bear kill licenses transferred to them by adult “mentors.” Bear after bear after bear is killed by mobs of men and dogs.
The Guardian’s Rory Carroll went along on a bear hounding just before California banned it. He wrote: “Strip away the arguments about conservation, wildlife control and the (undeniable) hypocrisy of meat-eating urbanites, the hunters do what they do largely because their fathers did it, and because it’s fun. That’s poor justification to harass bears.” It is even poorer justification to kill them.
Killers care enough to organize. Long ago St. Francis of Assisi said that it is not enough not to harm our “humble brethren” but we must be of service to them when they need it. There will be millions of last afternoons for wild families over the next year, until enough people care to hound their legislators on behalf of bears and wildlife. It is long overdue.
Sign a petition to demand an end to hunting, trapping and hounding of wildlife in Wisconsin.