February 6, 2023

GASP! New York Considering Adding Bear Baiting, Hounding and Trapping

When a reader sent me a link to a blog post by Bangor Daily News’ John Holyoke, I saw the headline and figured it must be a joke. – “New York considering allowing baiting, trapping, hounding bears.” Aside from the bit of bear drool offered toward the end of Holyoke’s piece, he aptly points out that while Maine is in the throes of another citizen’s referendum to end bear baiting, trapping and hounding as management tools for the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), the state of New York, in their Draft Black Bear Management Plan for New York State, 2014-2024, is contemplating the need to begin implementation of bear baiting, bear trapping and bear hounding in order to achieve necessary tools to control bear populations.

Maine wildlife managers, as well as sportsmen, have argued for years that those tools are needed, and then something else more creative, to properly manage black bears. Now it appears that wildlife managers in New York are asking that bans be lifted to make available baiting, trapping and hounding of bears.

Now, as additional bear harvest is necessary to achieve the modest population reduction desired in the central and southern Catskills and to prevent population growth throughout currently unhunted portions of upstate New York, DEC must incorporate new mechanisms to increase participation in bear hunting and increase bear harvest rates. Accordingly, this plan calls for expansion of bear
hunting into all areas of upstate New York, a supplemental hunting season in the Catskill region, and
assessment of existing regulations and statutes that limit bear management capacity. For example, regulations that prohibit the taking of a bear from a group of bears and statutory prohibitions on taking bears less than one year old in the Southern Zone afford protection to female and young bears. These prohibitions were effective strategies when population growth was desired, though they are no longer necessary and may be impeding management in some areas. Additionally, close regulation of alternative harvest techniques such as use of bait, pursuit with hounds, trapping or spring hunts could provide additional management tools and would likely generate substantial interest in New York bear hunting among resident and non-resident hunters. Though not currently lawful in New York, these techniques are used successfully in many areas throughout North America (Hristienko and McDonald 2007)and should be assessed for management value in New York. (emphasis added)

I will not be so bold as Mr. Holyoke to predict that if the Humane Society of the United States is successful in banning baiting, trapping and hounding of bears, that an overgrown population of bears, “aren’t going to eat you,” I will offer a prediction that it will be a cold day in St. Patrick’s Cathedral, deep in the heart of the Empire State’s Gotham City, when New York implements any or all of the suggested methods of controlling black bear populations in the Draft Bear Plan.

However, it should be noted that it is the wildlife managers in New York saying they can’t healthfully manage the state’s black bears without the necessary tools to do it. In Maine, as the rhetoric blows up and people become emotionally intoxicated over bears, the notion that MDIFW will lose the necessary and proven successful tools to control bear populations, gets booed and hissed at, as though it was some kind of far fetched lie.

I’m sure the animal lovers and protectors in New York thought their “science” was settled when laws were passed banning baiting, trapping and hounding. Now is the time for someone….anyone? to step up and say, “We told you so.”