World famous bear biologist Lynn Rodgers with a wild research bear and her cub
It appears you could, through baiting, really wipe out the bear population very quickly.’’ — Dave Garshelis, top Minnesota bear biologist in 2017
Dave Garshelis, the top DNR bear biologist in Minnesota, said that their bear population has crashed due to overkill the past six years. However, the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources continues to promote killing nearly twice as many bears here the past eight years.
The Minnesota Star Tribune reported: “Over the past two decades, Minnesota’s population of black bears has plunged steeply, from 25,000 to an estimated range of 12,000 to 15,000. Tighter hunting restrictions have aimed, without much luck, to reverse the trend.”
Instead of increasing quotas for 2017, the Minnesota DNR tightened them. With natural food supplies again in short supply this year, Garshelis said, “It took a while for the state to recognize that Minnesota’s bear population had crashed.” He also said: “They were very vulnerable last year. They were easy to bait.’’
Baiters drop tons of donuts and breads in Wisconsin woods, all summer long, disrupting natural feeding patterns of all wildlife. A crash in Wisconsin’s bear population is politically not going to be acknowledged — science and humane stewardship, of course, be damned.
Hunting is by far the biggest mortality factor for bears. The Minnesota DNR issued 9,500 permits in 2010, but only 3,850 last year, and 3,350 this year. Minnesota’s highest annual kill in six years was 2,641 bears.
The Wisconsin DNR continues to kill off nearly twice that many every year — 4,646 in 2012, 3,952 in 2013, 4,526 in 2014, 4,198 in 2015, 4,682 in 2016. The DNR is destroying wildlife in this state to recruit and satisfy more hunters to keep its exclusive power base as a killing business.
“When the age of harvested bears declines significantly, as it has in Minnesota, it’s an indication that the overall population is dropping,” Garshelis said. “In 2016, half the male bears taken here were either 1 or 2 years old. Half the female bears were age 3 or younger, meaning they never matured to reproductive age.”
For over a decade, most of the bears killed in Wisconsin have been less than 2 years old. When I started raising the alarm about this, years ago, the DNR kept monitoring age of bears killed, but stopped including that data in its “harvest” reports.
Wisconsin bears no doubt are also faced with natural food supplies in short supply, yet the DNR has issued the highest number of killing tags ever for 2017: 12,850. It is hardly scientific or humane, but hey, running dogs and killing wildlife is “just fun,” according to this Wisconsin Bear Hounding facebook video. Although the DNR imposes a limit of six dogs that can terrorize bears, one can see at least 12 in the video attacking a young bear.
Deregulation and no oversight are the DNR’s game.
The Minnesota DNR overestimated their bear mothers’ ability to create enough cannon fodder for hunters. Wisconsin continues accelerating the same mistake.
Recent articles in Esquire, “Freedom Means Shooting Bear Cubs While They’re Hibernating,” and New York magazine, “Trump Team Blocks Criticism of Bill Allowing Hunters to Massacre Bear Cubs,” show President Trump is focused on ending “tyrannical regulations that make it illegal for hunters to massacre baby bears, during their denning season, at Alaskan wildlife preserves.”
“Expanding access to national parks and public lands for hunting, fishing, and recreation is and remains a top priority of this administration,” said Heather Swift, an Interior Department spokeswoman.
The NY Magazine article goes on to say, “In addition to its provisions concerning bear cubs, the SHARE Act (Sportsmen’s Heritage And Recreational Enhancement Act) would also allow hunters to kill baby wolves and coyotes during their denning seasons. The NPS (National Park Service) memo objects to these measures, noting that wolf and coyote pups’ pelts have ‘little trophy, economic or subsistence value.’ But as the National Rifle Association explains, the only people who would prohibit the killing of coyote puppies on these grounds are ‘animal rights extremists.’”
Lynn Rogers, bear biologist who runs the North American Bear Education Center in Minnesota, teaches the gentle, peaceful nature of black bears. As a tribute to a longtime bear supporter, Madelene Ostrowski, recently deceased, he posted her beautiful five-minute video tribute to his research bears.
As Rogers said, “I recognize that the DNR has stated that hunters and trappers are their primary clients. Those are the clients who buy hunting licenses and pay federal Pittman-Robinson taxes on hunting equipment — taxes that are distributed to the states according to the number of hunters. Those funds pay the salaries of many of the DNR’s wildlife officials. But taxpayers and tourists deserve consideration, too.”
And that has always been zero consideration.
Please ask your senators to oppose the SHARE Act and its companion bill, the Sportsmen’s Act, which expand trophy hunting and poaching access to wildlife on so many levels. The very organized hunting cartel will be voicing and paying its way to this long-sought legislation.
This column was originally published in the Madison CapTimes on September 10, 2017.