August 25, 2019

The Mythical Bear Study Extremists Seem to Adore

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The other day I wrote about how the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) announced that it was seeking bids from private enterprise to assist them with devising a “model” to better control the black bear population in Maine.

*Important Note*(I find that the MDIFW’s credibility on wildlife management issues dwindles the more they talk. Maybe that’s why they are so close-lipped about many things. I say this because here we have a situation in which the MDIFW is coming off announcements of the release of their future big game management plans which calls for less focus on counting the numbers of deer, bear, moose, turkeys, etc. and placing more focus on a “healthy” population. Evidently, MDIFW is discovering how difficult it must be for them to manage these game species without spending time counting. As such, it now appears the MDIFW has reached out to private enterprise to help them COUNT.)

As a result of the latest announcement of seeking outside help, the Media has erupted with information from every Tom (LOL), Dick, and Harry either for or against this idea, which seems to be going hand in hand with the announcement that newly elected governor Janet Mills has selected the current head of the Division of Wildlife at MDIFW, Judy Camuso, to be the next commissioner of the department.

In the fray, it seems members of the media and heads of animal rights groups have crawled out of the woodwork claiming that Mills’ appointment of Camuso is a big mistake because she did her job under Commissioner Woodcock and was his mouthpiece during the last bear referendum.

It should be noted that these groups and much of the echo-chamber Press, will not give up this fight until they get what they want. Eventually, they will.

In many a previous discussion about bear hunting, more specifically using bait as a hunting method, those who opposed baiting bear (realistically they oppose all hunting regardless of method.) have never had any “scientific” studies to support their claims, until 4 people from the University of Southern Maine created a study of their own – a “model” I might add, and most of us should know by now what modeling does when it comes to science. Which brings me to the point of this article.

The so-called “study” can be found at this link.

I’m not going to spend a great deal of time going through the entire study to point out the flaws. However, in order that people can make intelligent decisions, especially when it comes to voter referendums, somebody ought to tell the truth and point out the realities, especially when it comes to such things as “models” used as a “scientific” foundation to build a political argument.

First, I should say that it is my opinion that much of what was published in this study is credible, however falsely based on Natural Regulation. What is missing is information that would seriously manipulate the results that were concluded from the modeling done. Unless, you are intelligent enough to read and understand the entire study, cherry picking quotes and statements here and there to promote one’s agenda is dishonest at best.

Throughout the study, the authors repeatedly state that they “made assumptions” and purposely did not include data that would have altered the results of the study, but stated they “were satisfied with the outcomes.” *Note* – If the outcome is what is desired, what’s not to be satisfied about it?

When anyone models information to arrive at some kind of conclusion, it is far too easy to manipulate the input in order to obtain a desired outcome. This outcome, it is realized, becomes a powerful tool for the very same reason that animal rights groups are cherry-picking information to substantiate their agendas. This is precisely the definition of “Scientism.”

I doubt that the authors of this study are any more qualified to create it than I am. I will note that references and resources, of course were hand-picked. In addition, I will give very little credibility to any information used as a reference in a so-called scientific study that uses Wikipedia. If you don’t understand this statement then you will not understand the basis of my entire article.

Modeling, as I said, is far too easy to manipulate input to get the output desired. I’m not definitively saying the authors deliberately went out of their way to devise the outcome they desired. Only you can make that assessment yourselves.

Therefore, guess work and estimates are useless in deriving any conclusions that are anything but guess work and estimates – garbage in and garbage out.

Data used by the study writers, included data that comes from the MDIFW website. Ironic isn’t it that those animal rights advocates will jump all over hand-selected data from this study (much of which comes from MDIFW) to aid and abet their passions but in the same breath curse the department for being ignorant of bear management. How is that?

The MDIFW will be the first to admit their data on species populations are estimates – estimate in, estimate out. Studies and Modeling supports estimates and guesses.

Even though as I stated, much of what is written is reasonable if only it was more honestly stated that their results are only estimates of the inexact data they had to work with. The truth is there are so many variables in the life cycles, ecosystem changes, and management plans, attempting to claim that baiting bears causing the population to grow is really quite dishonest.

Too many simplistic assumptions are made in order for the authors to reach the conclusions that they did. One that just kept jumping out at me was the bulk of their modeling and the results they obtained were based on the belief that in the late Summer and early Fall, when bear hunting and baiting is being done, bears naturally eat only beechnuts. Really? In off years and in areas where there are no beech trees, the poor bears must starve to death.

As the study states, most biologist agree that bears prefer natural food over the slop baiters put out to entice them, and yet, so many conclusions are made based on this notion that bears eat only beechnuts in the Fall.

Another issue I find incomplete, or dishonest if that’s what you choose to believe, is the study doesn’t even mention where baiting takes place and how the food used in baiting can contribute to a false “carry capacity” as a percentage of the total statewide bear population. If it is true that baiting bears contributes millions of calories and 7 million pounds of “unnatural” food for bears, what is the percentage of bears that are actually getting bait food versus those that never see it, or at least what comes in a barrel in the middle of the woods? This study is void of such discussion.

I will repeat, there are just too many variables to be able to make the claims these authors did that baiting bears causes the population statewide to increase every year, evidently with no end in sight.

I will also point out that much of the information contained in this study is based on the myth of natural regulation. Figures and formulas are presented based on the theory of natural regulation. There is no such thing in the context of which it was presented in this study. Natural Regulation, perhaps more accurately described as Natural Irregularity, everything is a constant changing of positive and negative feedback loops. These loops provide large swings up and down of species population. Odd that these authors even used their own devised positive and negative feedback loops and yet somehow those loops only contribute to a growing bear population when baiting is being done.

But we shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater. Although many choose to only hand-select information that benefits them and their political agendas, the authors offer conclusions and remedies to what they perceive as a management problem. Let’s look.

The authors conclude that bear baiting increases the bears’ “ecosystem carrying capacity,” and based on their findings the current bear management plan will not reduce the bear population. *Note*If baiting of bears increases the bears’ “ecosystem carrying capacity,” then in theory, and using the same logic used in this modeling, unless there is a constant increase in the number of bear hunters and the amount of bait being spread throughout the bears’ ecosystem, then why doesn’t the “false” carrying capacity created by baiting, level off and thus the population of bears level off as part of their false natural regulation?

I think I would have to agree with at least the part that says that unless the MDIFW changes something the bear population is going to continue to grow provided all other variables remain relatively constant.

The authors make recommendations as to what MDIFW can do. It might appear to me that all of those opposed to bear hunting deliberately avoid mentioning these recommendations. Who can blame them? I might add that these animal rights people want only hunting, trapping, and fishing to be banned and let “Natural Regulation” take over. Part of me wishes this would happen just so I can say I told you so.

The recommendations given in a nutshell are these:

First, ban baiting. Their model “suggests” if baiting was banned only about 700 fewer bears would be killed. (Note – I wonder if that number includes any of the bears they chose to not include in the model that shows baiting grows the population?)

Second, encourage the hunting of female bears and cubs. GASP!!! How dare anyone whose data I used to promote anti-hunting agendas suggest killing momma and baby bears!! GASP!! (again)

Third – and this is the one that floors me – continue the use of bait but switch the bait from junk food to “natural beechnuts.” Say what? If the argument is that baiting artificially grows the carrying capacity and thus artificially grows the population, how then is switching the bait going to change much. Is it that we have now become more and more conscious of the bears’ diet? Yes, I have also read that as well.

So where do the beechnuts come from? Doing a quick Google search I couldn’t find any stores that market and sell beechnuts. So……? Are hunters and guides supposed to start collecting bushel baskets and hiring people to go out and pick beechnuts to bait deer with? Maybe there’s an after-school job for some young boys and girls harvesting beechnuts to provide bear guides with bait.

If the bait used for bear hunting is supposed to be changed from junk food to natural beechnuts, the ONLY way I know of to do this without altering the natural ecosystem carrying capacity, is to pick the beechnuts from the trees within that ecosystem and make feeding by the bears easier. Remember in the “regulated” world of Natural Regulation, beechnuts cannot be brought into an area where they did not naturally appear, otherwise what’s the difference in what you use for bait unless the concern is to provide a healthy diet and cut down on tooth decay in bears?

Part of the circular, confusing reasoning used in this study, the conclusions derived, and suggestions made shows up when the authors suggest that introducing bears to human food will, “teach bears to associate humans with food.” Smart critters aren’t they. I’ve always asked the question and never given an honest answer, if bears are so damned smart that they learn to associate human food with humans, are they equally as smart to learn that human food might mean a bullet in the butt?

There will always be disagreements with wildlife management. In recent years, as the culture of this nation morphs into something I perceive as perverted, things have gone far beyond disagreements in wildlife management practices. They have gone to a point where people are demanding an end to long-held traditions of hunting, trapping, and fishing. Their beliefs cause them to take whatever direction they need to in order to get their way.

Ironic it is, that some who advocate for animals rights and protection, even wishing to deny a person’s inalienable right to eat the foods that LORD GOD ALMIGHTY provided us, take offense to anyone who counters their idealistic Romance Biology, as though we are supposed to just shut up and do as we are told…by them.

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