“Bears are made of the same dust as we, and breathe the same winds and drink of the same waters. A bear’s days are warmed by the same sun, his dwellings are overdomed by the same blue sky, and his life turns and ebbs with heart-pulsings like ours.” — John Muir
During five weeks from Sept. 6 through Oct. 11, 5,000 black bears will be killed with packs of dogs run on them since July 1, and bait set all summer. Most will die before they are 2 years old.
For $4.50 each, 112,985 wannabe bear hunters (over $508,400 collected) were entered in the bear kill lottery. The most licenses ever issued have been sold for the 2017 kill — 12,850 licenses at $49 each (another $629,650) — or $7 to lure a child 10 to 11 years old to kill a bear cub.
The Department of Natural Resources is anything but natural and nothing about protecting nature and wildlife for the greater good. Follow the money to the ultimate source of privatization of wildlife to those who kill. As long as the state and federal agencies are funded by hunting, trapping and hounding licenses and taxes on guns and ammunition, the general nonhunting public is excluded from any say.
The DNR operates an upside-down world that values wildlife primarily for its death. These wild creatures cannot organize to defend themselves, protest, or fight back. They are helpless without our defense, a defense that has never been there for them.
Biologist Lynn Rogers (shown in the picture with a wild bear), who founded and runs the North American Bear Education Center in Ely, Minnesota, has studied black bears for over 50 years — more than any human on earth.
The Guardian wrote an article in 2009 about Rogers’ work, saying: “In the years Rogers has tramped through the Northwoods he has abandoned just about everything he knew, or thought he knew, about bears. …
“And they are not ferocious. Rogers is adamant about that. He said he has never heard a bear roar or even growl, and that in all of his years of close proximity to the animals he has never been seriously hurt even though in his early years he displayed what he calls ‘bad bear manners.’
“The bears he knows are timid creatures. Defensive postures, such as swatting their large paws on the ground, are mistaken for aggression by many people.
“‘In my 42 years of working closely with bears (now 50 years) and testing every no-no, I have not found a way of getting a bear to attack. The more I push them the more they try to get away. They might want to nip and slap, but it is not an attack, it is just a way of fending me off so they can find a way to escape.’
“It’s humans who are the more dangerous animal, he said. ‘If you look at the statistics, one black bear out of a million kills somebody. With grizzly bears it’s one in 50,000. Among humans it’s one person out of 18,000 kills somebody. So you could see why I would feel a lot less comfortable in the city than in the woods next to a bear.’”
The Minnesota DNR, like the Wisconsin DNR funded on killing wildlife, has resented Lynn Rogers’ education about the peaceful sweet nature of bears. They do not want the public to protect wildlife. They refused to protect Rogers’ radio-collared research bears and worked with hunters to kill them. I wrote about the DNR’s war on Rogers’ research in October 2015, “Lily, a bear with a bounty on her head.”
This year, in Rogers’ newsletter, he wrote June 20, “I knew how hard the DNR worked in defiance of a judge’s order to eliminate our top bears in 2013. I knew Lily was the icon representing Lily Fans and all that we are doing for bears that conflicts with the DNR campaign to recruit hunters. I knew that Lily had done much to let people see the gentle way they care for their cubs. I remembered that the DNR had added revealing the location of her den site part of the DNR permit to place a den cam last winter, which would have revealed her location and the location of her territory where the DNR could focus hunting. I couldn’t risk her life that way. Working with the DNR, the local guide has surrounded my property with hunters each hunting season since the DNR began trying to end my research. Lily, the bear with a bounty, is the prized target of all as the documentary of 2013 showed.”
Only constant citizen pressure on legislators can end this madness. In an accelerating mass extinction, we need a DNR that respects not just wildlife, but all of us, with a first time democracy.
Interested citizens can sign up to receive the bear center newsletter and can view the bear web cam.
Originally published in the Madison CapTimes on August 27, 2017.