May 23, 2019

No taste for bear hunting

The head of the FWC says a hunt is the only way to manage the population and keep the bears in check.

The anti-hunting group, who spearheaded a failed effort past year to curtail bear hunts in Maine, terms the potential Florida season a “trophy hunt” and has vowed to stop its implementation.

Protests are expected to take place Monday, in Ocala, and all around the state, ahead of this week’s bear hunting vote by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Opponents to hunting have advocated non-lethal means to reduce human-bear conflicts such as attacks and traffic collisions.

Source: No taste for bear hunting | Rapid News Network

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The Legacy of One Bear – Sara (ID #225)

Written by Randy Cross, Biologist

Wildlife biologists have been monitoring black bears in Maine since 1975. Over the course of this monitoring program, a few bears have been monitored for over 20 years. This is a short account of the legacy of one of those bears – Sara (#225) –who started her life in January 1972.

Sara was born in a warm den in January, just as hundreds of other bear cubs are born in Maine. This den would be her home for 3 months, where she would nurse, gain strength, and develop from a 12 ounce, nearly hairless creature; into a bright-eyed 8 pound miniature bear. When she left the sanctuary of her den that spring, she would follow her mother throughout the summer and den with her again through the next winter. Most likely, in June of 1973, weighing only 30-40 pounds, she left her mother for good and took on the challenges of surviving alone in the vast forest lands of northern Maine.

At the same time Sara was becoming acquainted with the woods of northern Maine, efforts were being made by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife (MDIFW) to start a research project to gain a better understanding of bears in Maine. The section of woods that Sara bear was born into was chosen to be one of the study areas for the bear project. Biologists began capturing bears to monitor their survival, general health, and reproduction in 1975. MDIFW used this information to develop a bear management system and a monitoring program that is still used today to monitor the status of Maine’s bear population.

Although MDIFW wildlife biologists began capturing bears in 1975, Sara managed to escape capture until August 11, 1980. On that day she was captured with a cable foot restraint, given the study identification number of 225, and named Sara. She was the 225th bear captured since the study began. By this time, Sara was eight years old and had grown to 150 pounds. She was fitted with a radio collar that emitted signals that could be used to locate her either from a plane or on the ground. From this point forward, Sara, as well as many other female bears, would be visited in her den each winter by biologists who would document her successes and failures at producing and raising cubs.

The following winter (February 19, 1981), researchers found Sara with two offspring just over a year old (yearlings) that had been born in the previous winter’s den. . In the 1980’s, bears in Northern Maine typically didn’t begin having cubs until they were 6 years old and then continued to have cubs every other year thereafter. So, this was likely Sara’s second litter of cubs. One of these yearlings was a female (ID 236) who weighed a remarkable 63 pounds, which is strong evidence that natural foods for bears were in great abundance during the preceding summer and fall. This yearling received a radio collar of her own so that when she left her mother in June, she could also be followed through her life, contributing valuable information to the monitoring project.

The next summer and fall (1981) was not nearly as productive for natural bear foods in this part of Maine. At this time, beechnuts were a very important food source for bears in northern Maine in the fall. Unfortunately, the nuts were not abundant that year, forcing bears to den very early and in poor condition. When biologists visited Sara in her den in March of 1982, they found her to be very thin, weighing just 100lbs and had no cubs with her. At 10 years old, Sara was entering the prime years of her life. Other mature females were experiencing similar struggles. Very few cubs were born this winter in the forests of northern Maine.

Bears are well adapted to being able to survive lean times and take advantage of plentiful food sources when they are available. As is often the case, the extremely lean year of 1981 was followed by an extraordinarily bountiful year for these bears. The next fall, they foraged on an abundant crop of beechnuts late into the fall and entered dens in remarkably good shape.

When recaptured on March 24, 1983 Sara had nearly doubled her weight in the year since she had last been seen in the den. Snuggled under her were 3 healthy female cubs Clara (Id 454), Belle (ID 455), and Karen (ID 456). All 3 were radio collared as yearlings the following winter and a matriarchal dynasty began to take shape.

Karen and all her cubs were studied over the next 20 years until 2003 when her radio signal failed due to a faulty battery connection installed by the manufacturer. That was a tough loss to the research team and efforts to recapture her the following spring were unsuccessful. She may still be roaming those woods at 32 years old.

Karen’s sister, Belle (ID 455), gave birth to her first litter of 2 cubs in 1989 when she was 6 years old. One of these cubs was a female, Josie (ID 1048). This bear, the granddaughter of Sara, has provided reproductive information the next 26 years of her life. By the time she was in her teens, Josie grew to become the largest female bear in the study area. The biologists were able to document 11 of her litters, including one male (ID 3390) this winter (2015), setting a record for the oldest female to give birth in the study (a record previously held by 2 females at 25 years old).

Over 3000 research bears have been handled between the time of Sara’s first capture and when Josie and her young male cub were handled on March 20, 2015. Sara had 11 offspring which produced 18 “grandchildren” (2 are still being monitored); 32 great grandchildren (5 are currently being monitored); 31 great-great grandchildren (7 are currently being monitored); and 13 great, great, great grandchildren (2 of which are being monitored). 105 different bears have been tagged that are direct descendants of Sara, representing 6 generations of bears. Sixteen of these, now equipped with radio collars, are providing reproductive information in this study area. Unlike males, who instinctively will roam many miles from where they were raised, females reside very close to where they were born. All of these females in this family line live within a few miles of where Sara was first captured back in 1980.

Click her for a chart of Sara’s family tree:

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Will Florida Bring Back Bear Hunting?

According to Field and Stream:

“Early next month, members of the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FFWCC), a seven-member panel appointed by the governor, will consider whether reinstating a bear-hunting season after a 20-year absence can help address the growing number of bear-human conflicts throughout the state. A story from the Sun Sentinel says the FFWCC expects the notion to be controversial, especially because the move for public safety and wildlife management involves an animal that stirs sentiment from both hunters and non-hunters. If the hunt gets a thumbs up, discussion of how many permits to issue and location of hunting boundaries will take place in April.”<<<Read More>>>

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“Bear Populations Are Very Hard To Manage”

A former New Hampshire conservation officer recently said:

Bear populations are very hard to manage with just casual take by hunters on foot. In fact it can’t be done. Truth be known, trapping (often with live traps to allow release of females with cubs), allowing hunters to use bait and using hounds to tree the bears are the most efficient and actually more humane ways to keep bear populations within the carrying capacities of their environment.

And here is a typical statement made by those who actually hunt bears in the woods and not fall in love with them from their Washington, D.C. air conditioned offices:

A friend of mine has spent 5 decades hunting in Maine. He bow hunts. He hunts with guns. He hunts before work and after work. He hunts weekends. He takes his vacations during hunting seasons. He gets deer every year. He hunts rabbits with his beagle. He bird hunts. He’s hunted moose many times. He hunts all over the State. Some would say he is obsessed with hunting. He shot 2 turkey just this morning…..He told me in all those years, only 2 times has he a legit chance to shoot a bear. This “fair chase” bear stuff wont cut it.

In Maryland, a four-day bear hunting season just closed with harvest numbers disappointingly lower than was hoped for. 1,061 bear hunters checked 69 bears; about a 7% success rate. (Bear populations are hard to manage.)

One the first day of the bear hunting season, law enforcement handed out 6 hunting violations – all for hunting with bait. I wonder why they needed bait?

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Maine IFW Talks With Other States That Have Banned Bear Baiting

Press Release from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife:

October 9, 2014

AUGUSTA, Maine – With Maine’s bear management program the subject of a statewide referendum, Mainers are hearing a lot about Colorado, Oregon, Washington and Massachusetts, four states that have passed similar measures.

After similar referendums passed in these states, generally these states have has seen an increase in the bear population, an increase in the number of nuisance complaints, an increase in the number of nuisance bears killed and an increased cost to the public as a result of expanding bear populations. Voters in Massachusetts, Colorado, Washington and Oregon banned bear hunting with bait and hounds from 1992 to 1996.

In Massachusetts, the bear population has increased seven-fold and bear conflicts have increased by 500 percent. Wayne MacCallum, director of the state’s Department of Fish and Game’s Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, described the situation in an August 24 article in the Portland Press Herald: “(The bear population) is expanding eastward,” he said. “Every year now there are an increasing number of juvenile bears in metropolitan Boston. I suspect if we can’t harvest significantly more, the population will continue to increase.”

He went on to state that “there are constant complaints about bear encounters. We are constantly moving bears. It’s kind of like shoveling sand against the tide. This is the largest bear population in the state for at least 200 years. The fact of the matter is, at some point you will just have so many bears that people won’t tolerate them.”

In Colorado, more than 350 bears are killed each year in response to conflicts. Many towns have passed ordinances that regulate how residents can store their garbage and when it can be placed for curbside pickup, with fines ranging up to $1,000. One Colorado county even banned levered door handles on new houses because home entries by bears are so common.

In some Colorado towns, bear complaints are the number-one call received by police departments. When asked what impact a similar ban would have on Maine’s bear management program, Colorado bear biologist Jerry Apker recently said, “I think it would tremendously complicate how the State has to approach managing bears in Maine.”

In Oregon and Washington, biologists have struggled to prevent property damage by bears since the referendum passed, and those states now allow private landowners and deputized agents to kill bears using bait, hounds and traps in unlimited numbers.

Despite this, bears cause an estimated $16 million in damage to the timber industry each year by stripping the bark from young trees. Donny Martorello, the Carnivore Section Manager with the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, recently told 92.9 Radio Host Bob Duchesne that before the referendum, “we were able to use recreational hunters at a very low cost and through time (that) was working well.” While he respects the rights of voters to pass a citizen initiative, he went on to say that “having that full toolbox of ways to manage the resource is something we’d like to see.”

In Maine, bait, hounds, and traps account for 93 percent of our annual bear harvest. Maine is the most forested state in the country, and our woods have a thick understory, which makes still-hunting extremely difficult. The loss of bait, hounds and traps for bear hunting will have a much larger impact on Maine’s bear management program than it has in other states.

In addition, Maine has very few options to increase participation by bear hunters if the referendum passes. The state already has a 14-week hunting season that starts in late August and ends after bears have entered their dens. Bear hunting licenses are already available in unlimited numbers, and a spring hunting season is prohibited by legislation.

During the firearms season on deer, all Maine residents are already allowed to hunt bears without having to purchase a separate bear license. Since Maine won’t be able to offset a reduction in the bear harvest by increasing hunter numbers or season length, if the referendum passes we expect the bear harvest to decline dramatically. This will result in a rapidly increasing bear population that expands into the more populated areas of Maine, causing more conflicts with people.

Even though each of these states is very different from Maine in several ways, it is informative to understand how their bear management programs have evolved over time. Maine’s bear biologists discussed each state’s bear management programs and hunting methods with the biologists in these states. As a result, Maine’s biologists are more convinced than ever that a ban on bear hunting with bait, hounds and traps will be bad for Maine.

In all of these states that passed similar referendums, bait and hounds were responsible for a relatively small portion of the annual bear harvest because the open habitats make other hunting methods, like spot and stalk, more effective. Therefore, it was possible for the fish and wildlife agencies to partially offset the decline in the bear harvest that occurred after the referendums passed.

This was accomplished by lengthening fall hunting seasons, reducing the cost of bear hunting licenses, expanding spring hunting seasons, increasing annual bag limits or issuing more bear hunting permits.

In some states, bear tags were included in a package with other big game licenses, so that virtually all hunters could shoot a bear if they saw it. The rise in bear hunter numbers was due to changes in how hunting licenses were administered, rather than an actual increase in interest in bear hunting (e.g. all big game hunters receive a bear tag and then are counted as bear hunters whether they actually pursue bears or not). Even with these changes, each of the harvests in these states is less than half the number of bears that need to be taken in Maine each year to control the population.

Maine is fortunate to have one of the largest bear populations in the country. We have very few conflicts between people and bears, and those that do occur are generally not severe. Fewer than a dozen bears are killed each year to protect property or public safety. Our bear management program is based on 40 years of research and is highly regarded by biologists across the country.

Leaving bear management in the capable hands of Maine’s biologists and game wardens will ensure that bears retain their stature as one of our state’s most treasured resources.

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Can Black Bears Be Aggressive?

Note* – I was sent an email yesterday from a women who asked me if bears can really be aggressive. It came on the heals of an event in which a bear came out of the woods, running toward two people and making “strange noises.” I took the time to reply and this morning, after thinking about it, I decided it was worth sharing what I wrote.

I think the key words here are CAN THEY BE aggressive? Yes they can under certain circumstances. Unfortunately, for the animal lovers they refuse to accept that premise…I suppose fearing it somehow will jeopardize the existence of bears.

Generally speaking all animals, yes, even your little doggies, have the potential to attack, even if it’s a quick snap. Why? The obvious answer is because they are animals. I see it all the time where people insist on putting their face into the space and face of dogs and cats or any animal for that matter. Perhaps the dumbest thing to do.

Back to bears. Hard to believe there are 30,000 plus bears in Maine because we seldom see them and won’t under ideal circumstances. We all choose to apply human traits to animals, which is nonsense, but sometimes helpful to get people to understand circumstances can change. Just like with humans, when circumstances FORCE you to move outside your comfort zone, you do what you need to do. Animals are no different except they react and don’t reason.

Bears prefer their natural surroundings and that includes natural food. They are opportunistic [hunters] and yes, especially during this time of year, are gorging themselves in preparation for hibernation. If natural food is in short supply, we see more bears and hear of more human/bear conflicts.

Then we need to better understand the REAL behavior of bears not the Romance biologists’ perspective of things. Even this event that you describe, may not have ended in a bad way….or it may have been devastating. Bears, as with other large predators, i.e. coyotes, wolves, mountain lions, etc. go through a progression, actually, before they will attack a human. That is USUALLY. Those bear attacks on hikers etc. do not qualify here as probably the animals felt threatened and reacted.

However, bears and others actually have to learn how to attack a human. They don’t look at you or me and say, hmmm, human = food. They see us as another moving object. They don’t even know if we are good to eat or if they are capable of killing us. So, they take themselves through a process of “testing” to find out what that moving creature (human) will do.

The most obvious “testing” predators do, not just with humans but other prey species, is called “prey testing”. In this regard they do things to see how the prey will react. If a bear approaches a human and the human shoots, yells, throws rocks etc., the bear might get the message this isn’t going to be easy. On the other hand, if the human doesn’t offer any kind of resistance, the bear moves on to the next test to see what you will do.

Perhaps this bear that came running out of the woods was merely testing these humans to see how they would react to a charge. We read about it quite often. That is why we are told not to run when a bear does this. That’s what they want you to do. However, who has the [guts] to stand up to a charging bear? Perhaps this charging bear had already done some testing before this. Predators will quietly and secretly observe potential prey before being bold enough to come out and begin fighting like a man. LOL

Under most conditions bears are harmless. What bothers me is that because of that repeated statement, people refuse to accept any other description of bears. People really need to understand that there is ALWAYS potential danger with any animal – wild or domestic. If we learn about their behaviors and what they mean, we can reduce our risk of what might happen in dealing with that occasional bear encounter or coyote encounter or fox or marten, etc.

People love to focus on the rarity of such events. Rarity involves the perspective of the person making the claim. What is rare? You pick up the newspaper and read about a bear incident. I can almost with certainty guarantee that the articles will state that bear attacks are rare and yet seldom offer any education about them.

So again, I ask. What is rare? Is it rare because you don’t personally know anybody that got attacked by a bear? Is it rare because there are 6 billion people in the world and only 5,000 have been killed by bears? How rare do you think it would be for this family had the bear killed one or both of these people? And does it matter about rarity? Whether it’s rare or not a human might have been killed. Was it preventable? More than likely and part of that prevention is to be able to keep bear hunting going and just as importantly to allow the fish and game people to be able to use tools available to help keep us all safe.

My work takes me all over the world and perhaps contrary to what you are reading in papers in Maine right now, in places were bears aren’t regularly and effectively hunted, bear populations are increasing and so are the numbers of bear/human encounters. Don’t believe those lies.

If Maine passes this referendum and there then becomes so many bears that attacks like what you describe become more common, somebody is going to have to KILL bears to stop them. Why not let people who could use the bear do it?

I have described above that bears, when abundant natural food is available, we seldom see. What happens when Maine’s bear population grows from 30,000 bear to 40,000 and then one year, there is little natural food? 40,000 bears all competing for little food. What do you think will happen?

Thanks for sharing the story. I’m certainly glad nobody was injured. Many stories like this are heard and most end with little or no harm done. It’s the real tragic ones like the Rutgers student in New Jersey that really get you to thinking. Rare or not, it didn’t need to happen.

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Experience Vs. Romance Biology

A letter writer from Morristown, New Jersey, has a piece in MyCentralJersey.com in which he reluctantly says that the recent attack by a black bear on a Rutgers University student in a park/preserve, was predictable. He claims he has sent “at least” 12 letters since 2007 warning that this event would occur under present bear policy.

Bob Guinter brings up a few good points. The first is in response to a person from the Sierra Club continuing to claim that black bears are docile, timid and afraid of humans.

…after spending over 10,000 hours in the North woods of Maine at my uncle’s wilderness cabin…, My experience is different. Black bears are unpredictable and they are both scavengers and predators as circumstances allow. Perhaps those who believe they are docile and afraid of people simply choose to ignore behaviors they exhibit commonly in their indigenous environment where they are at the top of the food chain.

The second point is in response to a claim that bears become aggressive, slowly over time, because they learn that humans are a source for food.

During my time of hiking and fishing the East Branch of the Penobscot River, it was a rare event to see another human; sometimes not seeing anyone outside of camp for weeks at a time. Yet bear encounters with them exhibiting aggressive behavior toward humans were common. There, they only seemed afraid of anything in the fall when the hunting-dogs were running.

This is perhaps a very good example of romance biology versus actual experience. In this day and age where real science has been shown the door and replaced with computer models and romantic theories, rooted in nonsensical idealism, what we are seeing here is the fruit of that planting.

The masses of people have been propagandized. Some may think propaganda a harsh term in this instance but when you consider that the definition states that it’s bad information being used to promote a cause or belief, it surely fits nicely. The problem here is that this propagandizing has been taking place at all levels of society for a very long time. The result is too many people have never been taught the real truth. Nobody wants to admit they were lied to and that what they believe is false. It’s like admitting a weakness, like alcoholism or drug addiction.

The real loser in all of this nonsense of “new understandings” is the beneficial-to-all scientific community. A true scientific method involves the advancement of a hypothesis. Real scientists then choose to discover if such a hypothesis holds validity. Changes to the hypothesis begin and over time, what was once a mere theory, begins to have credibility – not the lie we have been fed that “the science is settled.” Such a statement, as has been used with climate change, is completely dishonest and borders on criminal.

Today’s new science, called by some “scientism” creates computer models based on an ideology or political agenda. Money is injected and what once was a tried system of peer review, has become a support system propped up with money and promises to arrive at a desired outcome.

Unfortunately for all of us, we are left having to decide who we should believe. The result being this divide pitting totalitarian-minded people, armed with propaganda, attempting to force the rest of society to follow their ideological beliefs, through such things as voter referendums. How does this at all resemble a credible scientific process?

In the letter written that I’ve linked to above, the writer wants to know how the person with the Sierra Club can state that, “bears are usually docile and are more afraid of people than we are of them.” He asks, “How does he know?” And therein lies the difference between knowledge and understanding, through real experience, and fabricated propaganda being used to promote an agenda.

It’s really not all the far away from the story of the two guys who had hiked back into the wilderness to do some fishing and are being chased out of the woods by an attacking bear. One man says, “I don’t think I can outrun this bear!” The other man replies, “I know I can’t. I just need to outrun you.”

Which man is dealing with truth?

EBranchPenobscot

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N.J. Bear Attack Got Em Runnin’ Scared in Connecticut

In New Jersey, a bear attacked and killed a Rutgers University student and evidently it’s got people in Connecticut running scared out of fear it could happen to them. (Must I remind people to “look big?”) And then afterward blame it on global warming.

After reading this article at NewsTimes.com, by the standards and logic used by those who would prefer to marry a bear than kill it, this wildlife biologist should be fired for stating such nonsense.

The habitat is not shrinking, it’s expanding,” said Paul Rego, a wildlife biologist with the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection.

“I receive calls every day from people concerned about bears in their yards and pets attacked,” Rego said.

“As the population expands, it will include more developed parts of the state, and the probability of injuries increases as the frequency of contact increases.”(emboldening added)

Who ever heard of such a thing as expanding habitat? Such talk does nothing to promote the agendas of the predator lovers, those whose ideas about animals tip the scales to the point of perverted animal worship and preference of them over humans and human safety.

Using their logic, perhaps all that habitat should be destroyed in order to prevent the bears from being killed because they are a nuisance and a public safety concern.

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What Question 1 Means for Maine

This article was written by Gerry Lavigne, former Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife deer biologist and is found on the website of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. Here is a lead-in to his work:

The methods by which Mainers hunt and manage black bears are being put to the referendum test, as Question 1 on the November 4, 2014 statewide ballot. Sound familiar? It should. Only a decade earlier, in 2004, Maine voters rejected a similar referendum.

The money and influence behind both referendums are the same: the Humane Society of the United States
(HSUS), and a local group called Wildlife Alliance of Maine (WAM). The purpose of both referendums is the same: to ban the use of bait, dogs, and traps for recreational bear hunting in Maine.

Referendum proponents want us to believe that these bear hunting methods are unfair, cruel, and unnecessary for bear management in Maine. None of these assertions are true.

This is not merely a case of making choices regarding which of several equivalent bear hunting methods to allow. If Question 1 passes, the ability of Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (DIFW) to manage bear populations will be severely compromised. As a result, there will be negative biological, social, and economic impacts throughout Maine, from Madawaska to Kittery.<<<Read More>>>

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Old Hunter Says Action or No Action Has Consequences

Ironic, in a way and yet tragic. A guy sends a letter to a local Maine newspaper claiming, in part, that too many humans is what the problem is with bears.

All the while, I guess the letter writer should be somewhat relieved that one human, from his home state of New Jersey, is dead and not so much because the bear he wishes to protect was killed too.

As tragic as it was in the death of the individual, it is a sad commentary on the human condition that a human life is expendable to save that of an animal.

NewJerseyBear

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