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First day of bear season yields an unusual find: Man takes albino black bear in Centre County

By John Knouse, Sentinel sports reporter  Lewistown, PA

Right-click here to download pictures. To help protect your privacy, Outlook prevented automatic download of this picture from the Internet.
Sentinel photo by JOHN KNOUSE

Tom Wisniowski, of Acme, left, took a female albino black bear weighing 47 pounds on the first day of bear season Monday. Some of the other successful hunters on opening day include Richard Marther, center, of Erie, and Jeff Gowen, of Evansburg. Their kills are displayed along with a bear taken by Andrew Duncan, of Erie.

POTTERS MILLS — Among the early successes of the 2007 bear season is one that a Westmoreland County man will never forget.  Tom Wisniowski, of Acme, took an albino black bear. The female cub weighed in at 47 pounds.

“I couldn’t tell what it was at first because there was a lot of snow and fog,” Wisniowski said. “I honestly thought it was a coyote, but then it got a little bit closer and I could tell it was an unusual bear.”

Unusual? That’s an understatement. There’s very little mention of albinos among bears. One was reportedly taken in New York State in the early 1900s, and another was killed in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in 2004.

Wisniowski, Jeff Gowen, of Evansburg, Richard Marther and Andrew Duncan, both of Erie, all killed bear while hunting together in Centre County Monday, the first day of the season. Taken in Spring Township, Wisniowski’s bear, even though it was not the biggest of the four, was the real trophy.

According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s Regional Office in Huntingdon, this year’s bear complaints have been above the normal amount reported.  “Almost all of our officers have been working bear complaints, especially in Mifflin and Juniata Counties. The complaints seem to be at an all-time high because of the extremely warm weather we’ve been having all across the state, which means the bear have not begun to ‘den up,’ or hibernate yet this year,” said Don Garner, a supervisor at the regional office.

That problem may have a solution, and that solution started Wednesday and Thursday, when the Pennsylvania Game Commission opened up a special season, exclusive to archers, that allowed a few extra bear to be taken.  “This is only the second year the special archery season has been open, and this year was slightly better, as far as the harvest goes, than last year,” said Stephen Repasky, regional biologist, while working at the station at Penn’s Nursery in Centre County.

This year’s bear license sales have been phenomenal, totaling more than 87,000. It is estimated by the game commission that 2,025 bears will be taken.  “We’re hoping for a good harvest this year, the 2,025 bears that are usually harvested is normally enough to keep the population fairly stable,” Garner said.

The traditional rifle season for bear began Monday, and while somewhat successful, it was not quite what the game commission was looking for. In the south-central region of the state, 79 bears were killed — that’s almost down to half of the bear taken in that region during the first day of the season in 2006.  “We started off pretty slow, and then it picked up a little,” said Regional Biologist Justin Vreeland. “Pennsylvania has a very healthy bear population, but certain parts are becoming overpopulated and troublesome, it’s somewhat disappointing to see a first day harvest like this one.”

Among the many successful hunters and storytellers at the check stations, was 22-year-old Marshall Daihl from Willow Hill, who killed his first bear at 9:30 a.m. in Fannett Township, Franklin County.  “It all happened so fast, I was sitting there a while, and the next thing you know I was standing beside it,” he said.  Daihl’s female bear weighed in at 124 pounds. 
“This is always a popular event. Families come from all over the area to see the bear, it’s almost always a good time,” Garner said.

McVeytown residents and hunting partners John Boozel and Patrick Briggs smiled as they both brought bears to check in.   “That bear got shot in the woods,” said Austin Wagner, of Altoona, who came to see the bear on his third birthday. Austin watched as Boozel and Briggs weighed in their bears. Boozel’s bear tipped the scales at 118 pounds while Briggs’ bear weighed in at just 40 pounds.  Two of the biggest bear taken on Monday were taken by Martinsburg resident Gary Eberle and his grandson Eric, a Mifflintown Resident. The two hunters took the bear while hunting in West Township, Huntingdon County.

“I’ve been hunting bear every year since it started in Pennsylvania, and this is the first one I’ve ever killed,” Gary Eberle said. His bear weighed in at 340 pounds, field dressed, and his grandson’s bear was a hefty 290 pounds.  “I was really excited and decided I wanted to have a shoulder mount done,” Eric Eberle after weighing in his trophy. Gary Eberle used a .270 short magnum to bring down his bear, while Eric Eberle used a 30-06 to bag his big one.  The biggest bear taken on Monday in the region was taken by Woodberry resident Jerry Zimmerman while hunting in Bedford County.

“As soon as I saw it I knew it was a big bear. Everything happened really quick,” he said. “It took me five shots with my 30-06 to take him down,” said Zimmerman, whose bear weighed in at a whopping 543 pounds.  “It was definitely a low count for the first day. We had only 29 bear come through here today, normally we have over 50. I think it has to do with the heavy snow and fog they had in the mountains this morning, it was hard to see for the hunters that went out, and I think quite a few stayed home,” Repasky said. “I’d hope to see the weather and the hunting improve the next two days, the more bear taken, the more stable and less troublesome the Pennsylvania bear population will be.”


Consumer Alert: "Cancer Project" Organization Is A Deceptive Animal Rights Group
Posted On October 31, 2007 -
The Center for Consumer Freedom

Washington -- As health reporters cover today's report on global causes of cancer from the American Institute for Cancer Research, the nonprofit Center for Consumer Freedom is urging them to be skeptical of follow-up pronouncements from a deceptive animal rights group calling itself "The Cancer Project." A project of the misnamed Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), The Cancer Project is the animal rights movement's attempt to use cancer to frighten Americans into strict vegetarianism.

PCRM, which controls the Cancer Project, derives more than two-thirds of its $9 million budget from Nanci Alexander, the wealthy founder of the Animal Rights Foundation of Florida. People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has steered an additional $1.3 million to the organization.

"The Cancer Project, like its parent group, is basically PETA in a lab coat," said Center for Consumer Freedom Director of Research David Martosko. "These save-the-chickens extremists regularly exaggerate any suggestion, no matter how unproven, of a link between meat and cancer. It's just what you'd expect from an animal rights organization masquerading as a mainstream medical charity."

More troubling, PCRM actually discourages Americans from contributing to legitimate cancer research charities -- including the American Cancer Society, the Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Research Foundation, and the American Institute for Cancer Research -- on the grounds that laboratory rats and other animals are used in the most promising research.

"Some activists clearly care more about lab rats than human cancer victims," Martosko added. "Reporters and editors should take what they have to say with a giant grain of salt. If you wouldn't welcome cancer advice from PETA, you shouldn't accept it from The Cancer Project."



Black bear season off to big start; some think it's grisly

15-pound animal shot; opposition remains strong

Candus Thomson, Baltimore Sun reporter  October 23, 2007, Oakland

As a photography major at a Washington college, Coty Jones is used to taking tough shots. 
But yesterday, on the first day of Maryland's black bear season, Jones shouldered her rifle, steadied her nerves and brought down a 615-pound bear, breaking the three-year-old state record by 129 pounds. 
On its hind legs, the bear would have barely squeezed through a doorway, its ears grazing the ceiling. It took eight men two hours to drag it the length of five football fields.

"He didn't look that big until he got close," said Jones, a Hoopers Island resident and junior at Corcoran College of Art and Design. "I just froze."  Jones was sitting in a tree stand in Garrett State Forest, just west of Deep Creek Lake, with her father, Phillip Jones. Shortly after sunrise, both saw the bear lumbering from right to left about 80 yards in the distance.  "She was shaking, but I was shaking more," Phillip Jones said.  It took Coty Jones two shots to bring the bear down, and then came the hard part.  "It wasn't straight dragging, it was straight up," said her father, his hat and shirt still soaked in sweat.

Phone calls brought out a small army of volunteers, who pushed, pulled and shoved the bear onto a platform on the back of the Joneses' truck.  Jones said the bear will fill the family freezer.

Her bear was one of 36 killed yesterday, the Department of Natural Resources reported. The hunt will continue today.  With springlike temperatures and under a robin's-egg blue sky, the start of this year's season was the opposite of the previous two years, when snow and ice blanketed the region.  And this year also lacked the protesters and anti-hunting monitoring crews that had been fixtures outside the check station gate. But that is not to say opposition to the hunt has abated. Last week, the Humane Society of the United States took out a full-page ad in The Sun calling on Gov. Martin O'Malley's administration to stop the hunt. On Sunday, several dozen protesters - one in a bear suit - renewed the demand during an Annapolis rally.

The anti-hunting group pressed its case yesterday, releasing a telephone poll it said indicated that Maryland residents overwhelmingly oppose bear hunting. The survey of 839 registered voters that ended Sunday shows 61 percent oppose hunting and 72 percent want DNR to control the bear population by nonlethal means such as public education, the use of bear-proof garbage containers and scaring bears with guns that shoot rubber pellets.

However, 63 percent of those polled in Western Maryland, where the bulk of the bears live, favor the hunt.  Black bears, native to the state, were hunted to near extinction when a moratorium was declared after the 1953 season. The population slowly rebounded to the point where biologists and wildlife managers were able to recommend a limited, lottery-style hunt.  The bear population numbers 500 and grows 10 percent each year. Hunters and collisions with motor vehicles kill about 100 annually. This season, DNR wants to reduce the population by 50-70 bears.

A total of 2,804 hunters, a record number, applied for this year's hunt. The state issued 220 permits.  For Mark Arbutus and Paul Taylorson, their successful hunt was a textbook case of supply and demand.  Taylorson took out ads in two local newspapers and an online news site several weeks ago, seeking land owners vexed by nuisance bears. Of the half-dozen phone calls he received, one on the Allegany-Garrett county line seemed ideal.

At 7:20 a.m., Arbutus saw a 145-pound bear ambling toward his tree stand. He took aim at a 4-foot clearing just ahead of the bear, but at the last second, it veered away. Choosing an 18-inch clearing between two trees, Arbutus again took aim and waited.  The bruin walked right into the single shot.  "My heart was about to jump out of my chest," said Arbutus, 46, an electrical technician for Constellation Energy.  The two hunters - cousins from Millers Island in Baltimore County - tracked the bear 45 yards and loaded it into their pickup for the ride to the check-in station at the Mount Nebo Wildlife Management Area, near Deep Creek Lake. 
"That was smart," Arbutus said of his cousin's advertising campaign. "Next year, I'm sure you'll see a ton of ads."



The 'Disney effect' on bears

Wednesday, October 10, 2007 (newton herald)
By BRUCE A. SCRUTON bscruton@njherald.com

In film, he can appear as a dancing, friendly and bumbling friend — voice supplied by Phil Harris — or a bad comedian whose best friend is a frog. There was also the time he was somewhat closer to character, a dim-witted individual, carrying a club with a hankering for rabbit stew.

Most people's views, and concepts, of bears is what they see in "Baloo," from "Jungle Book," "Fozzie," from the "Muppets" or "Br'er Bear," from "Song of the South." There is the real, live animal seen in Gentle Ben, or Grizzly Adams and, of course, more true-to-life short features, like "Bear Country" of the 1950s, that introduced many to the natural world.

But real bears don't stand on stage and get a custard pie thrown in their face. They won't cuddle up at night under the covers. And, except those trained for zoo or circus acts, bears don't dance a jig or wrestle with the human television star.  "We have them in zoos and images of them around us," said Margaret J. King, director of Cultural Studies & Analysis in Philadelphia. "We make art objects out of nature. It's a very primitive and cultural thing."

King is among those who have written about what is being called the "Disney effect" — how Disney films, whether animated, live action or "nature documentaries" have influenced not just filmmaking, but public attitudes toward animals and the environment.  Anthromorphism is the clinical term to describe how humans ascribe human-like qualities to other species. "Bears are large game and competitors," she said of the long cultural fascination humans have had with bears. "They also stand on their rear legs, bipedalism, and look like us."

Put in the middle of a New Jersey political fight, bears are being made into an image by both sides. Is the elevation of bear to near-human status, based on true feelings or political leanings?  People grew up cuddling "Teddy" or hugging Winnie the Pooh, whose only bad habit was trying to steal honey, so "cute" and "timid" are words easily ascribed to black bears by those against hunting. They take pictures of bears eating from a human's hand or "playing" in a hammock.

In the wild, young animals practice skills they will need as adults. They chase their mother's tail; roughhouse with each other, mocking a "kill" or fight for a chance to mate. Is it really play and do they even know what "play" is?  Janet Pizar, director of the Bear Education And Resource Group, said recently that, having won a court battle over the bear hunt, the next move would be "to outlaw the killing of our bears." Then, she said, all hunting would be next.

On the other side, some have described bears "waiting in ambush" as if the individual animals could read a timetable or calendar and know that the garbageman only comes Tuesday mornings. "It's only a matter of time until someone gets killed," goes the mantra. They point to self-proclaimed bear "expert" Timothy Tredwell who studied Alaskan grizzlies for more than a dozen years. He was killed and eaten by the bears.

In reality, naturalists say bears are creatures whose nature is to find something to eat. They have a place in the natural world and it's not on our cultural pedestal.  King, whose business "decodes how consumers determine value in products, concepts and ideas," said the bear's place in our world "is very evolutionary" and based on our cultural background. The ancient Greeks named two constellations after bears, Ursa Major and Ursa Minor. Eskimos revere the polar bear, but it doesn't stop them from taking one in a hunt if they can.

Other Native Americans also worshiped the bear and lived beside them.  Today, King said, more than 90 percent of our day is spend inside, in optimum conditions that we have created for ourselves. "We don't like exposure to nature," she said. "We have evolved in nature to have as little to do with Nature as possible. We have taken nature and stylized it."

"There are a million misconceptions about bears," said Gary Alt, a noted wildlife biologist who ran Pennsylvania's bear management and deer management plans until his resignation three years ago. "People generally fall into two categories — they want to cuddle them or kill them."

Alt said the black bear population across the country is growing tremendously. In California where he now lives, the bear population has doubled to an estimated 32,000 since 1982.  In New York the bear population is still expanding and this year the state is reverting to a previous policy of opening the bear hunt in the Catskills on the same day the deer hunting season begins, effectively expanding the season by a week over the past few years.

In the 1990 hunt, 77 bears were taken in the Catskill area. During the 2005 hunt, there were nearly 500 bears killed in the Catskills and last year, the state said 365 bears were killed.  While some point to those numbers and note that even with hunting, bear numbers are increasing — an argument not to have a hunt — Alt said a well-managed hunt is not meant to decrease any population, but to provide a balance.  "If you really want to drop the population, you just say, 'Go get 'em!' Bears are more easy to overhunt than deer," he said.

In a healthy deer herd, does can begin to breed at about six months and have offspring each year. Bears don't start to breed until three years of age and have cubs every two years.  Jamie O'Boyle, senior analyst at Cultural Studies & Analysis said that while "both bears ("teddy") and deer ("Bambi") are big stars in our cultural Pantheon of anthropomorphized nature, bears trump deer because they are more like us. We can see a clumsy, more clownish, and therefore harmless, version of ourselves."

And there is an additional element — perceived rarity. "There is a simple equation in marketing, perception of rarity = higher value," he said. "End result; we instinctively lean towards encouraging bears but controlling the deer."  Alt said being the most densely human populated state, "New Jersey is at the frontier at human-wildlife confrontation and what to do about it."  This great experiment, he said, is tipped in the bears favor for now, but the balance will swing quickly towards bear population control.  "When it starts will just be getting the right bears doing the wrong things," he said. "It will require some sort of injuries. That will be the spark to set off the gas, then it'll blow.  "New Jersey is ripe and ready for it," Alt said. "New Jersey will test the waters as to how far you can push this."


Aggressive bear shot by homeowner had rabies

Michael A. Sawyers
Cumberland Times-News

GRANTSVILLE - The aggressive bear that was killed a week ago by an Amish Road homeowner after the animal charged and then attempted to pull out a window air conditioner has tested positive for rabies, a Garrett County health official said Tuesday.  "We sent the head to our health and mental hygiene lab in Baltimore on Thursday and got the results Friday," said Steve Sherrard, director of environmental health for the county's health department.  

At 7:30 p.m. on Aug. 29, the homeowners had heard a commotion outside and saw a bear attempting to get at two penned pygmy goats. When the family hollered from its main doorway at the bear, it wheeled and charged the house.  "At first it was pushing on the door and I was holding onto the handle from inside," said Charlotte Stanton. "Mike was going to the gun room to get a gun," she said of her husband.  At that point, Charlotte said the bear left the door and attempted to pull an air-conditioning unit out of a window.

"I was pulling from inside and the bear was pulling on it from outside when Mike got there with the gun," Charlotte added. "There was just enough room to stick out the gun barrel beside the air conditioner, but you couldn't aim it. He just stuck it out there and shot and it flattened the bear."  The No. 4 shotgun pellets struck the bear in the head and neck, authorities reported. The bear was eventually put down by a Natural Resources Police officer who arrived at the home 2.7 miles south of U.S. Route 40 about 30 minutes after the 911 call was transferred to state police.

"A little after that we got a call from DNR, who said, 'We hear you have a bear problem' and I said, 'Not any more we don't.'"  Charlotte said the family consulted with medical staff at Sacred Heart Hospital and decided that all family members, including a 15-year-old son and 10-year-old daughter, would receive post-exposure rabies vaccinations.  "Those things are really expensive and our insurance doesn't cover them so I'm waiting to hear back from Senator (George) Edwards to see if the state will pay for them," Charlotte said.  Mike contacted the bear when he helped load it onto a state truck, and the son helped Charlotte clean up blood from the animal.  Charlotte said that when the bear left the goats and charged the house, it covered the 35 yards very quickly.  "It's a good thing none of us were in the yard or you'd have dead people up here," she said. "We see bears around here a good bit."

Harry Spiker, who heads the bear management program for the Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service, said that neither the police officer nor a wildlife employee who responded will receive shots.  "Our wildlife staff all have the pre-exposure vaccine," he said.  NRP said the Stantons were acting in self defense and will not be charged for shooting the bear.  Both Spiker and Sherrard said the most likely source of the disease would be a raccoon. "There were some bite marks on the bear's rump, so that could have come from a raccoon fight or maybe the bear bit itself after becoming rabid," Spiker said.

This is the first bear to test positive for rabies in Maryland. About a half-dozen have been tested over the years, according to Spiker. During recent years, rabid bears have been confirmed in Alberta, Canada, and Pennsylvania.  In the Pennsylvania incident, it was discovered that the sow bear had actually devoured her own cubs, according to Spiker.  Although the Amish Road bear was lactating, there was no evidence that cubs were nearby. The carcass of the 134-pound sow was buried without necropsy. Spiker said rabies cannot be transmitted by way of the animal's breast milk. The cubs would now weigh 20 to 40 pounds, Spiker said. He estimated that the sow was 3 to 5 years old.  Sherrard said the number of positive rabies tests are down some in the county this year.  Of 30 animals sent for testing, four have been diseased: one bat, two raccoons and the bear.  The animals tested also included dogs, cats, possums, skunks and a fox.

Michael A. Sawyers can be reached at msawyers@times-news.com.


Bear attack suspected in mountain biker's death

By Linda Nguyen, Vancouver Sun      Published: Monday, July 23, 2007

Members of the RCMP are investigating what appears to be the province's latest bear attack after the body of a 34-year-old woman was found near Invermere Sunday. The woman had set off Saturday on the mountain biking trails at Panorama Mountain Village resort, about 19 kilometres west of Invermere in southeastern B.C. She was reported missing at 7:30 p.m. Saturday. A search and rescue team found her near the Panorama Mountain Bike Park around 5:30 a.m. Sunday, Sarah Harrison with the Ministry of Environment said. A black bear was found hovering over the woman's body.  "They located her with the bear guarding the body at the time. The bear was alive and the body wasn't," she said.

Harrison said the bear was shot and killed by an RCMP officer, before the province's conservation officers arrived at the scene.   It's unclear if the bear, estimated to be about 54 kilograms (120 pounds), had in fact fatally attacked the woman.  "They don't know whether the bear was the cause or whether it was just there," said Mark Woodburn, vice-president of Panorama Mountain Village.   The ministry is investigating the incident and an autopsy will be done on the bear to determine if it had killed the woman. An autopsy will also be done on the woman.  The mountain operations were closed Sunday as RCMP and conservation officers investigated the incident.

"We're all shocked and saddened; something like this has never happened before," said Eric Whittle, Panorama's director of sales and marketing.  During the summer, the mountain is a popular spot for mountain bikers who can ride up chair lifts and ride down steep trails with varying degrees of difficulty.
Another incident involving mountain bikers and bears occurred on the weekend, when a couple in Banff found themselves  face-to-face with a grizzly bear who was protecting her young.
The young Jasper couple were on the Lake Minnewanka Trail around 8:15 p.m. Saturday when they came upon two grizzly cubs.  The grizzly sow charged at the 22-year-old woman and the 32-year-old man from behind, forcing the two to jump off their bikes and make a run for it.  The two ran down to the lake, stumbling and falling on rocks as the bear huffed very close to the man. The sow and cubs then left the area.  Both were taken to hospital with minor cuts and scrapes.   A Clinton man was also lucky last week after surviving a bear attack during a morning bike ride July 16.   Roy Klopp, 56, encountered the unusually aggressive bear around 11 a.m. on one of the walking trails above Clinton near the Cariboo Highway in the Kamloops-Thompson region.  The 90-kilogram bear tried to attack Klopp, a sawmill worker, while his two dogs attempted to fend it off.   He escaped with minor injuries only after the young bear bit him in the behind.

 Barbara Murray of Bear Matters BC said such incidents can be prevented if cyclists take some precautions.  "People have to be bear aware in the woods," she said. "Look for bear scat on the trail, look for animal carcasses or a big berry bush. You have to be very alert and listen to cracking branches."  Murray said often, bears attack because they're scared by  cyclists.   "Usually most bears aren't dangerous. They get surprised and try to do something, especially when they have cubs. But it only takes one swat from a bear to really kill a person," she said.  Earlier this month, two forestry workers also encountered a bear near Invermere.  The July 4 attack happened near Akinkoom Creek, 50 kilometres east of Canal Flats, between Cranbrook and Invermere.   The bear had grabbed a male forestry worker's arm in its jaws while he tried to get away by hiding underneath a dead tree.   The bear then sank his teeth into the man's thigh as it tried to pull him back out.  He was able to kick the bear in the nose as his female co-worker  fired at it with bear spray.  The man was flown to Cranbrook hospital and treated for bites and gashes on his leg and arm.


Ex-Marine Kills Bear With Log
By Associated Press
June 21, 2007, 6:06 PM EDT

HELEN, Ga. -- A camping trip to Low Gap Camp Grounds turned into a harrowing experience for Chris Everhart and his three sons when they tangled with a 300-pound black bear.  But the encounter last weekend proved fatal for the bear.  The bear had taken the Everharts' cooler and was heading back to the woods when 6-year-old Logan hurled a shovel at it.  Fearing what might happen next, the Norcross father and ex-Marine grabbed the closest thing he could find -- a log.

"(I) threw it at it and it happened to hit the bear in the head," Chris Everhart said. "I thought it just knocked it out but it actually ended up killing the bear."  The man was given a ticket for failing to secure his camp site, said Ken Riddleberger, a region supervisor for game management with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.  Riddleberger said some U.S. Forest Service agents were at the camp issuing a citation in an unrelated case. They got to the scene in a few minutes and verified what happened, he said.

Riddleberger said fines are usually set by counties, but Everhart's will be set by the federal government since the incident happened on federal property.  "We've not had an attack in Georgia," he said. "The key thing to learn from this is if there's a bear around, do not have your garbage or food available. If we manage our food, we won't have bears around."


Experts find no odd factors in bear attack

By Joe Bauman and Bob Bernick Jr.
Deseret Morning News June 20, 2007

Wildlife experts on Tuesday were finding no unusual stress factors that might have prompted a large black bear to attack and kill 11-year-old Samuel Evan Ives in American Fork Canyon.  But simple proximity of humans and bears seems to guarantee that more conflicts are inevitable, said the director of the Utah Division of Wildlife Resources.  Jim Karpowitz added that Sunday night's "horrible, tragic bear attack" could be just the start of bear problems this summer.  "Bears are all around us" on the Wasatch Front, he said. "They are on our doorsteps" because of the proximity of homes to forested mountains.  "There are more bears around these days, more people camping," he said.

Karpowitz predicted interactions between humans and bears will increase. Bear problems have already occurred in northern and northeastern Utah this year, he added.  "We are working very hard, under our bear policy, to deal with those right now," he said.  The boy's family, residents of Pleasant Grove, camped a short distance north of Timpanooke campgrounds in the Uinta National Forest. Late Sunday night the bear ripped through the tent where Samuel was sleeping and pulled him outside while the boy was in his sleeping bag. Awakened by his screams, the family tried to find him but could not.

Two hours later searchers discovered Samuel's body about 400 yards from the tent site. Trackers with dogs killed the bear, estimated at between 300 and 350 pounds, about 11:30 a.m. Monday. A  necropsy (animal autopsy) at a state laboratory based at Utah State University confirmed it was the same bear.  Hal Black, professor of wildlife biology at Brigham Young University, said the bear's weight probably was about 300 pounds, "which is an early summer bear." He talked with a friend who helped track the bear and load its carcass. 

After gorging all summer, a large adult black bear could weigh 400 pounds before it hibernates, Black added.  This animal looked like a healthy, mature male bear. It did not seem emaciated, the friend said.  Bears are omnivorous, eating nearly any potential food they come across from fish to grass, ants, mice and deer. At the elevation where the attack occurred, possibly around 9,000 feet, fresh forbs and grasses were available for the bear to eat.  "To think that he was starving is probably nonsense," Black said. "He looked healthy."  The bear's age was probably 6 to 9 years, based on size and the fact that the canine teeth were not yet ground down, he said.  This time of year, bears tear open logs and stumps and eat insects inside, like ants. Also, "They're eating wasp's nests, which seems like a tough way to make a living," Black said.

Male bears cover more ground than usual around this time, searching for female bears. Possibly its travels brought it to the campground.  "It could have been his first time in a campground or he could have been experienced," Black added.  Bears can smell food from a mile or two away, according to Black.  "I don't know what happened at the campsite. But this is not an unusual thing, for a bear to be smelling a human on the other side of the tent," he said.  The night before the attack, a bear ripped the tent of a camper in the same vicinity.  "If you're a 300-pound animal and you've got nice long claws, and you lean up against a canvas tent," Black said, "you might fall through it."  While an investigation will tell whether the bear was diseased, Black expects it was "a healthy animal. It was out foraging."

Barrie K. Gilbert, a noted bear researcher formerly based at USU, said he thinks the deadly attack was "truly an anomaly."  "It means people should be careful around bears because they're big and they're dangerous," said Gilbert, who is retired and was contacted in eastern Ontario, Canada.
Gilbert said many black bears become food-conditioned through interactions with people. They may become assertive and shove humans away from food, as they do with other bears.  He believes bears that are least familiar with humans are likely to be most assertive. "They don't recognize humans as much of a threat," he said. But where bears are hunted, the survivors tend to avoid people more.

Attacks by black bears are so rare in Utah, Colorado, Idaho and Nevada that people should not be afraid to camp outdoors, he added.  One possibility, Gilbert said, is that the bear might have heard something inside the tent that "sounded like a mouse," and pounced.  Still, large male bears can tend to become single-minded, aggressive and nasty, Gilbert said.  "They almost get cunning," he said.
Sometimes powerful males get used to "beating up just anything out there, and they'll run down anything and eat it," Gilbert added.  He praised state officials for killing this one, saying that after an animal kills a human, it "won't back off" and will seek out others.  Housing developments did not play a role in the attack, said Kevin Bunnell, DWR mammals program coordinator.  "There aren't summer homes or anything like that near the area," he said.

But for outdoors activities, American Fork Canyon is a high-use area with lots of visitors, he said.
Did the bear attack because it had run out of natural food?  "No, right now at that elevation, things are still lush and green," Bunnell said. "They're kind of limited to eating grass, which they can do just fine on. ... But there's not a lot of variety out there right now. Berries and nuts and acorns and things haven't come on yet."  Neither is the area suffering from drought at this time of year.  "You want to make sure that you cook away from where you're sleeping," he said. "And then change clothes. You don't want to sleep in the same clothes you're cooking in," because bears might smell the food and go after it.  Also, visitors should have good hygiene, as bears can smell body odor.  "Their noses are really what they use to investigate the world around them," he said. "They're like a dog."  Bunnell said smells that don't indicate food still might prompt a bear to investigate out of curiosity.




FLORENCE, Mont. — Let's do some math.

Five hundred pounds vs. 55 pounds.  Four feet tall at the shoulder vs. 2 feet tall.  Three-inch claws vs., well, nubs.  Bear vs. bear dog.  Who wins?  Ideally, when Carrie Hunt's Karelian bear dogs encounter a grizzly bear, both do.

Hunt uses Karelians — medium-size black-and-white dogs used in Finland and Russia to hunt bears and moose — to herd grizzly and black bears away from campgrounds, ranches and other places in the northern Rockies where the bears might come into contact with people. Such encounters could be disastrous for both.   "Sadly, even if it's not a bad encounter, we have to put these poor bears down because some boo-boohead won't clean up his place," said James Jonkel, who heads the state of Montana's Living With Black Bears, Grizzly Bears and Lions Project.

Grizzlies are a fact of life in parts of Montana, where the carnivorous species lends its name to all manner of businesses and events, from Grizzly Wireless to the Grizzly Marathon along the Rocky Mountain Front. ("The prospects of being able to safely view grizzlies along the course are good. …The course will be well-monitored for runners' safety," according to the promotional material announcing the event.)  Grizzlies have preyed for years upon the farms and ranches bordering their territory, snagging the occasional chicken or sheep before melting back into the mountains. Now, the breathtaking scenery increasingly attracts wealthy owners of second homes and others from places where people live in houses and bears in zoos.

Few are prepared to discover a grizzly emptying the contents of their backyard bird feeder, or even lumbering onto their front porch. The latter happened, repeatedly, to Deborah Kaufman when she moved 13 years ago to the remote community of Polebridge, 22 unpaved miles from the Canadian border, to run a general store and bakery.  "My son was 9 months old," she said. "It was a whole different way to live to know that wolves, bears, mountain lions, everything, were here and that there could be an encounter. I just didn't really want them in my yard with my baby."

Enter Hunt, a biologist who had become discouraged by the bear-management maxim: A fed bear is a dead bear.  Her Partners-in-Life program at the non-profit Wind River Bear Institute here aims to convince bears that people places are just not worth the aggravation. Take the sow grizzly and half-grown cub that haunted two backcountry campgrounds in Glacier National Park last summer.   "They were not showing normal bear behavior. They were not wary of people, and were coming in close," said Matt Graves, a supervisory interpreter at the park.

The park shut the campgrounds, and called in Hunt's dogs. Every time the bears came around, the Karelians got in their faces, barking maniacally. Hunt and her assistants provided backup, shooting rubber bullets at the bears, tossing loud "crackers" in their direction, and shouting, "Get out of here, bear!"   As soon as the bears ran back into the brush, the dogs and the noise stopped. The idea, said Hunt, was to punish bears for approaching, and reward them for running away.  The two campgrounds recently reopened, so far with no bear problems, Graves said.  "Bold," Hunt calls her dogs. And, upon encountering a bear, "absolutely tenacious."

Around people, the dogs are friendly and inquisitive, leaning up against strangers and licking their hands. That curiosity plays into their work with bears, said Russ Talmo, the Wind River Bear Institute's program biologist.  Karelian puppies chosen for bear training are the ones "that won't turn their backs on a spooky situation," he said. The young dogs go through increasingly challenging situations, he said, including an encounter with "a big ol' bear carcass with big smells and loud sounds, so that it looks alive."

Young dogs are paired with experienced ones when they finally confront live bears in the Kananaskis region of Alberta, through an arrangement with Canadian government and private agencies. Hunt takes her dogs there for final training.  The dogs never touch a bear — they work as a group on long leashes — but intimidate it by barking so loudly and so relentlessly and from so many directions that it's impossible for the bear to, say, relax and enjoy the contents of that cooler it was eyeballing.

"I'm quick to say that I'm no Timothy Treadwell," said Hunt, referring to the bear enthusiast whose gruesome death was featured in the 2005 documentary Grizzly Man. "This is not about reaching out and touching bears. This is tough love."  The results speak for themselves, she said.  "We've never had a dog injured, a bear injured, or a person injured in 12 years," she said.  Such effectiveness doesn't come cheap. Hunt sells bear-trained dogs for $2,300. Her team's presence in an area with a problem bear runs between $500 and $900 a day.  Nevertheless, bear season is short, and Hunt said her program is partly supported by donations.

Kaufman, the bakery owner, bought one of Hunt's first Karelians years ago, the result being that — despite the beguiling aroma of pastries wafting from the Polebridge Mercantile — the bears keep their distance.  "They did break into the store down the road, and into some other people's property, but I think Zosia (her Karelian) is just too much of a pain in the butt," she said.  Hunt and others who work with bears view the trained dogs as just another tool for dealing with humans who stubbornly refuse to train themselves to use common sense in bear country.  "The running joke is that bears and wildlife are easy to manage," Talmo said. "It's the people that are hard."



Bears hunt closer to people's haunts

 By Andrea Stone, USA TODAY May 31, 2007 

Spring brings hungry bears out of hibernation, and last fall's poor acorn crop and a late freeze at Easter has sent the animals farther afield in search of food. That has prompted officials to warn people living or camping in bear country to take measures to avoid trouble. 

Scarce food supplies may be behind several recent incidents:

•In Hickory, N.C., officials cleared an elementary school playground Tuesday and called parents to pick up their children after a bear was sighted in the area.

•Two dogs were killed and a third injured in Asheville, N.C., this month by bears lured into backyards by bird feed and garbage. "We do have incidents every year" of bear attacks on dogs, says Mike Carraway, a biologist with the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission. "Three is a bit more than we have normally." He says there are about 5,000 bears in North Carolina, most in the western part of the state.

•In Knoxville, Tenn., police cornered and tranquilized a 130-pound black bear in an alley near the downtown entertainment district Monday night. Allen Ricks of the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency says it is "not particularly common" for bears to wander into downtown Knoxville, 25 miles from their usual haunt in Great Smoky Mountains National Park.

Bear incidents also have been reported in the West. In New Mexico this month, a bear briefly chased a hiker in the Sandia Mountains near Albuquerque and another one triggered the automatic doors at a clinic in suburban Rio Rancho. Last weekend, a 325-pound bear trying to cross Interstate 90 in Snoqualmie, Wash., was killed by a car.

Sightings of bears are common at this time of year, but early signs indicate that more are venturing closer to populated areas.

In Tennessee, a later hunting season has probably pushed the bear population to a 100-year high, Ricks says. Most bears live on public lands, but as urban development spreads nearby, more people meet up with bears.

Ricks says his agency received 89 complaints this month about hungry bears raiding garbage cans, pet food containers and birdfeeders. That's down from 115 calls in May 2006, but he expects more calls about marauding bears this summer.

Wildlife experts advise people to store food and garbage in bear-proof containers. They should empty birdfeeders and keep pet food dishes indoors. Bears should never be fed, Ricks says. "Don't do anything to encourage them to hang around."

Contributing: The Associated Press



Shampoo and dye Russian River bears
Idea is to accurately identify those that intimidate people

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(Published: May 20, 2007)

SOLDOTNA -- There'll be some changes in how bears and humans see each other along the Russian River this summer, starting with the bears' hair.  As part of an interagency effort to pacify a danger zone where hundreds of anglers daily mingle with bears expecting to dine on human leftovers, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game plans to make over several grizzlies in bright shades of drugstore hair dye. The idea behind yellow, green, orange or blue bears is to make them instantly recognizable to anyone who reports an encounter, area wildlife biologist Jeff Selinger said.

For public safety reasons, biologists have decided they need to kill bears that repeatedly intimidate people, he said, and making it easy for people to know exactly which bear they encounter may avoid any wrongful executions.  He and other biologists plan to tranquilize several bears that frequent the area, give them a shampoo, bleach the hair around their heads, shoulders and hindquarters, and then apply dye.  "This is their only chance at surviving," Selinger said.  It's a tactic that he predicted would draw scorn from wildlife watchers, though he says the state agency is "not trying to embarrass these bears.''

Soldotna-based wildlife photographer John Toppenberg, director of the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, groaned when he heard of the plan. "Who wants to take a picture of a clown bear?"   Toppenberg has photographed bears on the Russian but acknowledged it's not the best place to encourage bear-gazing, given the thousands of anglers who congregate there when the salmon are running. Still, he said, people come seeking wild Alaska, and for them, a punk-rock bear will spoil the memory and the digital snapshot.


The dye jobs are just one part of an aggressive new approach state and federal agencies hope will minimize potential conflicts between bears and humans along the Russian. They also want to reduce the food attraction for bears there while training people to be more bear-aware.

To help with the former, the state will install up to 10 hand-cranked carcass grinders on midstream platforms so anglers can return the nutrients in heads, bones and guts to the river without risking a pileup of bear-attracting carcasses.  With the carcass dumps gone, officials believe that over time the bears will stop viewing people as their providers and wander off to return to natural foraging grounds.

The U.S. Forest Service will enlist two seasonal protection officers to patrol the river and teach anglers about bear safety while ticketing those who move beyond arm's reach of their lunches or fish stringers. Some bears have begun to learn backpacks and stringers also provide easy pickings if they can simply shoo away the two-legged owners.

"Having a presence on the river is important," said Bobbi Jo Skibo, a Chugach National Forest employee coordinating the Russian River bear strategy for her agency, the state, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Kenaitze Indian Tribe.  "This is definitely a step up from what we've ever had," Skibo said.


Bears and crowds -- never a good mix -- have created tense moments in and around the confluences of the Kenai and Russian rivers in recent years. Many anglers bring guns, and last year one who felt threatened shot a bear.  In 2003, Girdwood resident Daniel Bigley barely escaped with his life after a bear bit him in  the face. He was left blind and spent more than a year recovering from his injuries.  Mainly, though, it has been people killing or injuring bears and not the other way around.

Selinger said he has come to expect a bear-shooting every summer, often killing a mother raising her cubs. "Then you have orphaned cubs who only know one place to make a living,'' he said. "They hang out there and get shot or hit by cars."   The agencies hope their intensified efforts will gradually transform the Russian from an attractive food stop for bears passing through to just another stretch of water full of salmon hard for a bear to catch.

The Russian River's top angling spots aren't naturally good spots for bears to fish, Selinger said. They're broad, generally shallow and have few places where fish are funneled into pools or riffles. Bears should move on if the carcasses and sack lunches dry up on them. "The idea is to break the cycle," Selinger said.


That part sounds good to Cooper Landing fly shop owner and guide Billy Coulliette of Alaska Troutfitters, although he worries forcing the bears to go cold turkey might provoke them into approaching more anglers in an effort to steal fish. Still, he figures the grinders are worth a try.  "It's not a bad idea, rather than having big piles of carcasses," he said. "You get 20, 30, 40 carcasses piled up below these cleaning tables and it's definitely easy food for them."  Coulliette is also pleased the Forest Service will add patrols, especially when so many anglers have started packing weapons.   "There's a lot more paranoia going on than traditionally there has been,'' he said. "Seeing those officers down there on a daily basis will ease those fears."

The bear dying, though, is "kind of ridiculous," Coulliette said. "It just makes the area look more like a circus show. It's already pretty crazy as it is, and now you've got bears running around that are purple. It's turning that river -- an awesome Alaskan experience -- into more of a theme park."  Coulliette said he understands the need to carefully monitor the bears, but believes something less intrusive might be in order. Biologists counter that they've tried using ear tags or collars in the past, but people often prove unable to identify the bears. After a traumatic bear encounter, humans usually don't even know if the bear had an ear tag, let alone what color, said state bear researcher Sean Farley.  "(But) people are coming up here to see natural beauty," Coulliette said. "Spray-painting them is kind of a disgrace to the animal when it's not his fault. Unfortunately there's hundreds and hundreds of intruders in his natural home."


Toppenberg said he worries coloring the bears may alter their natural behavior.   "Would your interaction with your wife change if you dressed up like a clown?" he said. "Who knows? Maybe it would help."   A bear researcher from Utah State University said bold markings are not unprecedented, and they don't seem to affect bear behavior. Scientist Barrie Gilbert said researchers tracking Canada polar bears have tagged them with large black splotches with no noticeable effects.  "Polar bears aren't nearly as gregarious as brown bears are on (salmon) streams, but I think most of the communication in brown bears is in the faces, the snarling and growling," he said.

Gilbert has spent more than a quarter century studying grizzlies, and was himself badly mauled in Yellowstone National Park. He went on to study bears in Alaska's Katmai National Park during the late 1980s. He believes the state's plan for weaning the Russian River bears sounds plausible.  As long as salmon runs are healthy, he said, bears will find plenty of food on their own. If anglers can clean up their surroundings, the bears will learn new habits over time. He cautioned against expecting a rapid transition, though, because bears are opportunistic feeders who come back to check on a food supply's availability for years after it's gone.

Likewise, he counseled against undue fear of curious bears who start getting hungry when their food disappears. Unlike the bear that jumped him when he inadvertently surprised it on a mountaintop, he said, human-habituated bears tend to be calm.   "They don't get fed by people directly or punished by people directly, so they tend to tune us out," he said. "If people don't freak out and drop the fish," the bears should move on, he said.   Selinger said it's time to try to teach the bears a new routine, and to identify any real problem bears, before someone is hurt or killed.  "The situation now is not good," he said.


Case of the Bullet in the Bear

Thursday, April 12, 2007

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Medical Examiner Stephen Nelson examines a 95-pound Florida black bear before performing a necropsy on the animal this week in Lakeland. The bear had been shot in November in Highlands County.

WINTER HAVEN--Here's something you haven't seen on the TV show CSI.  Polk County Medical Examiner Stephen Nelson cuts open a 95-pound black bear to determine where in the head it was shot.  'I've worked on dogs and cats in cruelty cases,' Nelson said. 'This is my first black bear.'

The State Attorney's Office in Highlands County asked Nelson to conduct the necropsy to determine the path of the bullet and where the shooter may have been standing when the shot was fired.

Norman Hatch, 64, admits shooting the bear. The sticky part for Hatch is the reason why. 
He says he shot the animal after it threatened his 18-year-old stepdaughter.  State wildlife officials don't believe his story. They accuse Hatch of gunning down the bear as it dug through trash outside his Highlands County home on Nov. 6. Hatch is charged with killing a threatened species, a third-degree felony, and faces up to five years in prison and a $5,000 fine if he's found guilty. A trial is expected to begin in May.

It has been illegal to shoot bears in Florida since 1994 unless in self defense, said Gary Morse, a Florida Fish and Wildlife spokesman. No bear attacks on humans have ever been reported in Florida, Morse said.

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Nelson points to the spot on an X-ray that shows the location of the bullet.

All bears in Florida are Florida black bears, one of three bear species in the Southeast, according to the Fish and Wildlife Web site. Black bears have rounded ears, short tails, 5-toed feet and large teeth. Adult males in Florida normally weigh between 250 and 450 pounds.

Nelson and his two assistants seemed fascinated earlier this week as they examined the animal spread out on its stomach on a rolling metal table.

Alex Morales, an autopsy technician, used a razor to cut away fur on the bear's head so Nelson could see the bullet's entry point and examine the wound more closely. The bloody bullet was later removed, and it was determined that it came from a .44-magnum handgun. Nelson should issue his findings in a couple of weeks.

Joe Price, an investigator with the Highlands County State Attorney's Office, took numerous pictures of the animal for his investigation.  The State Attorney's Office in Highlands County asked Nelson to assist rather than a veterinarian because of the issues involving the range and direction of the bullet that struck the bear. Price speculated that investigators also turned to Nelson because of their good relationship with him.

Except for the thick fur, big paws and sharp teeth, the work wasn't that different from an autopsy on a human, Nelson said. 'I usually don't get a chance to examine animals who aren't human,' he said. 'I'd probably be a vet if I did it over again.'  The bear, a male about 1 year old, was frozen before it was delivered to the Medical Examiner's Office near Winter Haven last week. The necropsy was expected to be
Friday, but it took longer than expected for the bear to thaw.

An initial necropsy determined that a bullet entered the side of the bear's head near its left ear, shattered the rear skull and exited below the right ear. Test results determined the bear was not rabid. 
The bear was no stranger to Hatch's home, according to a report. 
Hatch reached the Fish and Wildlife Commission by telephone about 6:30 p.m. on Nov. 6 to report that a bear was in the vicinity of his Lake Placid home, as it had been off and on for about three months. A Fish and Wildlife official said she could not offer immediate help. 

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Nelson holds the .44-caliber bullet that killed the male bear, one of a threatened species.

Agitated, Hatch asked what he should he should do if a situation arose requiring him to defend himself or his family from the bear. The official told him to leave the bear alone and to be patient until the following Monday, so she could contact a biologist.

An hour later, the bear was dead. Hatch told Fish and Wildlife officials that his stepdaughter, Stephanie Warfle, 18, had been attacked by the bear, but was not injured. Later, Warfle told investigators that she was on the back porch when the bear growled and moved toward her.

Hatch said the bear was in his backyard, about 20 to 30 feet away from his back door, when he shot it.  His wife, Robin Hatch, told investigators the bear rummaged through trash in their yard before it was killed. She told investigators she yelled at the bear, but it continued to dig through the trash.  Hatch declined comment. His lawyer, Richard Pipkin of Sebring, did not return a phone message.  It wasn't the first time a bear had bothered the Hatch family.  In 2001, a bear was rummaging through Hatch's garbage when his dog ran outside to confront the bear. The bear struck the dog, which received minor injuries. Afterward, Fish and Wildlife officials met with Hatch and told him to keep his trash in the house until the day of pick-up.


DEP spares bears from death to relocate them

Nonlethal plan likely to revive controversy as animals being leaving dens
Tuesday, February 13, 2007
Star-Ledger Staff

New Jersey is back in the bear relocation business.  A little more than a year after deciding to kill bears that wander into urban areas, the N.J. Department of Environmental Protection has decided to give them a break.  With only a month or two remaining before most bears leave their winter dens and start wandering, this pretty much guarantees spring will be a busy time for state biologists.

It also will rekindle statewide controversy about the bears, whose growing population has been causing bear-human encounters for at least six years. New Jersey biologists believe another 600 cubs have been born inside dens in just the last month.  Already unhappy rumblings are coming from Morris County. A 211-pound male black bear that wandered into a Maplewood yard on Sunday was tranquilized and transported to the Roxbury Township section of the Berkshire Valley Wildlife Management Area.

"If they asked us, I'm sure we would have said no. But they don't ask us, and if the state wants to put it on state land like Berkshire Valley, I'm not sure what we can do," said Martin Schmidt, a Roxbury councilman and former mayor.

In 2005 the state created a new black bear management policy, which called for hunts in some areas and a "no-tolerance" rules for others. That meant bears that wound up in places like Short Hills, Newark and Trenton -- and some did -- would be killed if authorities could not "coax" them to leave.  But the hunt and the no-tolerance zone disappeared in November 2006, when DEP Commissioner Lisa Jackson said more nonlethal bear management methods needed further study.  Relocating bears can be as controversial in New Jersey as killing them.

Towns from South Jersey to Sussex County hosting land owned by the state Department of Environmental Protection have for years complained about being the relocation spot for bears pulled from urban areas.  For a short time, the DEP took so much flak it refused to say exactly where it was relocating problem bears.  Now that Jackson has nixed the policy of destroying urban bears, the agency will almost certainly face renewed complaints from towns forced to host them.

"It's just going to start all over again. It's only February, and we already have bears running around. We're back to where we started," said Liz Thompson, spokeswoman for the New Jersey Farm Bureau. "This little guy from Maplewood is just going to become someone else's problem. Relocating them just relocates the problem."

The farm bureau wants a hunt, and opposes relocation.  The state's no-tolerance zone, known as Zone 7, covered the northeast, the Jersey Shore, the center of the state and the southern Delaware River coast. Last year, several bears found in those areas were killed.

DEP spokeswoman Elaine Makatura said Jackson has directed her agency to increase its outreach to the local communities regarding the state's bear problems, and relocation will be addressed.  "The recipient areas should also understand that the bears will normally stay in their natural habitat and not become a problem," she said.

Jackson vowed to secure an additional $1 million to improve the state's response to bears this year. Relocating a bear costs the state more than $1,000.  "It certainly is better for the Berkshire Valley area to have a bear placed there rather than 1,000 new condominium units, which are planned just south of there in Rockaway Township," said Jeff Tittel of the Sierra Club.

The Sierra Club opposed a hunt and the no-tolerance policy, contending the state must first preserve bear habitat before trimming the bear population.  No statewide bear estimate has been released by the state, but biologists said early last year they found 1,606 bears, or nearly three bears per square mile, in a 580-square-mile study area spanning Sussex and Passaic counties.

State biologists have responded to several bear complaints since January, although most bruins remain in winter dens until March. Bears are not true hibernators and will emerge from their dens if they can find food.  The state has held two bear hunts, the first in over 30 years in December 2003 and the last one in December 2005, killing more than 600 bears. After the last hunt, biologists reported 1,624 bear complaints for 2006, compared to 1,841 in 2005.



Sportsmen File in Court to Ensure ESA Not Manipulated to Ban Hunting - (12/15/06)


The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation has filed written arguments in a federal lawsuit brought by anti’s to challenge the endangered status of black bears in Florida and keep them off-limits to hunters. The anti’s want to use the Endangered Species Act as a tool to ban hunting nationwide.


On Dec. 7, the U.S. Sportsmen’s Legal Defense Fund, the legal arm of the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation, filed arguments with Judge Henry Kennedy, Jr. defending the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision to not list the Florida black bear as threatened or endangered under the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Extensive research by federal wildlife officials has shown that the listing is not warranted. Studies reveal that healthy bear populations occur in secure habitats in several areas.


Anti’s have tried for years to list Florida’s bears under the ESA. In this case, the Humane Society of the United States, Defenders of Wildlife, Sierra Club, and other anti-hunting groups brought suit contending that the black bear in Florida is a separate sub-species of the North American black bear.  The groups argue that the distinction entitles Florida bears to protection under the ESA. They want to establish a precedent that allows the challenge of the endangered or threatened status of any game animal that has numerous sub-species.


The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation has asked Judge Kennedy to forgo a trial and decide the case based solely on written arguments.


The USSAF is joined in the suit by the Central Florida Bear Hunters Assn., Safari Club International and Mark Roden of St. Augustine.


       First-ever archery bear hunt results in a harvest of 73

HARRISBURG - Pennsylvania Game Commission bear check stations recorded a preliminary harvest of 2,553 bears during the recently completed three-day season, and an additional 73 bears during the state's first-ever, two-day archery bear harvest.

The three-day season, held Nov. 20-22, preliminarily ranks as the eighth highest statewide harvest. When adding the archery take, the total preliminary harvest of 2,626 moves up to seventh place. However, Mark Ternent, Game Commission bear biologist, noted that with the extended bear season in certain Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) running from Nov. 27 through Dec. 2, the total preliminary harvest is likely to approach 3,000, which would put this year's combined bear harvest in line with the previous five years' harvests.

"While this year's bear harvest, so far, pales in comparison to last year's season, hunters still are on course to register a impressive harvest," Ternent said. "So far, this looks to be a typical season for bear hunters."

Last year, hunters set a record harvest of 3,331 bears during the three-day season and, by the end of the extended season, had pushed the record to 4,164. The combination of record license sales, high bear population estimates, abundant fall foods and favorable weather conditions aided in reaching that mark. Preliminary total bear harvest figures - two-day archery, three-day statewide and six-day extended - are expected by Dec. 6, but official total bear harvest figures for all three seasons won't be available until early 2007.

A printing error in the 2006-2007 Pennsylvania Hunting and Trapping Digest incorrectly lists on a detachable pull-out card found between pages 28 and 29 that the extended bear season (Nov. 27-Dec. 2) is open in WMU 4C. The extended bear season is not open in WMU 4C.

Bear licenses had to have been purchased prior to the start of the two-week rifle deer season on Nov. 27.

The top ten bears processed at check stations for the three-day bear season all had estimated live weights that exceeded 600 pounds. The largest was a 693-pound male taken by John D. Eppinette of Adamstown, in West Branch Township, Potter County, at 3:30 p.m. on Nov. 20.

Other large bears taken during the three-day season were: a 677-pound male taken by Donald L. Stear of Sagamore, in South Mahoning Township, Indiana County, at 7:15 a.m. on Nov. 20; a 661-pound male taken by Samuel I. Fisher of Loysville, in Southwest Madison Township, Perry County, at 8:49 a.m. on Nov. 20; a 649-pound male taken by Leon L. Bonczewski of Glen Lyon, in Newport Township, Luzerne County, at 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 20; a 622-pound male taken by Rick A. Warfel of Lancaster, in Cummings Township, Lycoming County, at 8 a.m. on Nov. 20; a 621-pound male by Steven J. Craig of Montgomery, in Shrewsbury Township, Lycoming County, 9:30 a.m. on Nov. 20; a 621-pound male taken by Jonathan E. Kio of Ulysses, in Allegany Township, Potter County, 3:15 p.m. on Nov. 20; a 607-pound male taken by Terry S. Brungart Jr. of Rebersburg, in Greene Township, Clinton County, 9:15 a.m. on Nov. 20; a 604-pound male taken by J.E. Allgyer of Kinzers, in Burnside Township, Centre County, at 7:12 a.m. on Nov. 20; and a 601-pound male taken by Andrew M. Miller of Mill Hall, in Greene Township, Clinton County, at 7:10 a.m. on Nov. 20.

The preliminary three-day bear harvest by Wildlife Management Unit was as follows: WMU 1A, 12 (9 in 2005); WMU 1B, 37 (37); WMU 2C, 253 (308); WMU 2D, 98 (127); WMU 2E, 97 (114); WMU 2F, 203 (258); WMU 2G, 680 (900); WMU 3A, 225 (284); WMU 3B, 208 (288); WMU 3C, 90 (115); WMU 3D, 120 (237); WMU 4A, 114 (147); WMU 4B, 32 (41); WMU 4C, 69 (104); WMU 4D, 281 (297); and WMU 4E, 34 (60).

The top five bear harvest counties in the state's three-day season continue to hail from the Northcentral Region. The leading county was Clinton with 213, followed by Lycoming, 196; Potter, 180; Tioga, 142; and Clearfield, 130.

County harvests by region for the three-day season, followed by the three-day 2005 preliminary harvests in parentheses, are:

Northwest: Warren, 78 (78); Forest, 46 (67); Venango, 42 (38); Clarion, 36 (30); Jefferson, 28 (62); Butler, 10 (10); Crawford, 5 (10); Erie, 2 (0); and Mercer, 2 (4).
Southwest: Somerset, 122 (108); Fayette, 59 (73); Indiana, 46 (65); Armstrong, 31 (33); Westmoreland, 22 (44); and Cambria, 13 (30).
Northcentral: Clinton, 213 (227); Lycoming, 196 (238); Potter 180 (211); Tioga, 142 (217); Clearfield, 130 (157); McKean, 129 (146); Centre, 92 (138); Elk, 83 (109); Cameron, 67 (170); and Union, 40 (33).
Southcentral: Huntingdon, 95 (127); Bedford, 72 (94); Mifflin, 42 (29); Blair, 36 (44); Fulton, 16 (21); Snyder, 15 (11); Juniata, 14 (11); Perry, 8 (7); Franklin, 4 (6); and Cumberland, 1 (0).
Northeast: Sullivan, 67 (80); Wayne, 56 (74); Pike, 48 (94); Luzerne, 46 (75); Susquehanna, 38 (53); Bradford, 33 (55); Monroe, 30 (69); Wyoming, 24 (24); Carbon, 21 (50); Columbia, 17 (36); Lackawanna, 13 (18); and Northumberland, 4 (2).
Southeast: Schuylkill, 14 (28); Dauphin, 13 (14); Lebanon, 8 (4); and Berks, 4 (4).

The largest bear harvested during the two-day archery season was a 458-pound male taken by Christian Landis of Lancaster, in Cogan House, Lycoming County, at 8:25 a.m. on Nov. 15. Other large bears included: a 457-pound male taken by Michael Rapsky of Cairnbrook, in Shade Township, Somerset County, at 4 p.m. on Nov. 16; and a 407-pound male taken by Shane Emel of Mill Hall, in Bald Eagle Township, Clinton County, at 4:30 p.m. on Nov. 15.

The two-day archery season harvest by WMU was: WMU 2C, 9; WMU 2D, 3; WMU 2E, 2; WMU 2F, 2; WMU 2G, 32; WMU 3A, 8; WMU 4A, 2; and WMU 4D, 15.

County harvests for the two-day archery season by region was:
Northwest: Butler, 2; Venango, 1; and Warren, 1.
Southwest: Indiana, 4; Fayette, 3; Cambria, 1; and Somerset, 1.
Northcentral: Clinton, 12; Centre, 8; Potter, 7; McKean, 5; Tioga, 5; Clearfield, 4; Elk, 3; Lycoming, 3; Union, 3; and Cameron, 1.
Southcentral: Huntingdon, 4; Blair, 2; Mifflin, 2; and Fulton, 1.

Created in 1895 as an independent state agency, the Game Commission is responsible for conserving and managing all wild birds and mammals in the Commonwealth, establishing hunting seasons and bag limits, enforcing hunting and trapping laws, and managing habitat on the 1.4 million acres of State Game Lands it has purchased over the years with hunting and furtaking license dollars to safeguard wildlife habitat. The agency also conducts numerous wildlife conservation programs for schools, civic organizations and sportsmen's clubs.

The Game Commission does not receive any general state taxpayer dollars for its annual operating budget. The agency is funded by license sales revenues; the state's share of the federal Pittman-Robertson program, which is an excise tax collected through the sale of sporting arms and ammunition; and monies from the sale of oil, gas, coal, timber and minerals derived from State Game Lands.


Anti-hunt groups claim bear policy flawed

Wednesday, November 15, 2006
By TOM HOWELL JR., Herald Staff Writer

Animal rights groups filed a legal brief this month alleging the state altered reports to cover up a flawed bear management policy.  The New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance and the Bear Education and Resource Group (BEAR) submitted the document Nov. 3 in anticipation of appeals court arguments scheduled for Nov. 29, NJARA's Freehold-based attorney Doris Lin said.

Gov. Jon Corzine has called for a review of the existing bear management policy to determine how best to implement other "non-lethal" alternatives, prompting some to wonder if the bear hunt, scheduled for Dec. 4-9, will take place.

Citing new statistics, the anti-hunt group's 62-page filing claims there are "numerous flaws, inconsistencies and misrepresentations" in the bear policy, NJARA said.  Among other claims, the brief says a disproportionate high number of adult females and male cubs were killed in 2003, and alleges the defendants "later fabricated predictions of these results and misrepresented the data, presumably to garner public support for the bear hunt."

Gene Rurka, president of the Somerset chapter of the Safari Club International, disagrees with the anti-hunt group assertions and said the bear population is a persistent problem in New Jersey.  "I think the number of sightings speaks for itself," he said. "I never saw a Canadian goose growing up in New Jersey, and all of a sudden I've got them everywhere. They're like rats."

In 2005, NJARA and BEAR sued the Department of Environmental Protect-ion, Division of Fish and Wildlife, Fish and Game Council, and respondents-intervenors Safari Club International and the U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance Foundation, in response to the Comprehensive Black Bear Manage-ment Policy. The policy was formed after a state Supreme Court ruling in 2004.  Hunters received the green light for a hunt in 2005, but NJARA and BEAR expect the hunt to be canceled this year in court, Lin said.  "The 2004 ruling was very good because it forced the council to justify the hunt with science, but when they tried to do that their arguments fell apart," Lin said in a phone interview Tuesday.

Rurka referenced a scientific basis, saying there's no predator for the bear, which creates a "huge population." Some residents of Sussex County, he notes, do not let their children walk alone on their property.  He also questioned why NJARA and BEAR are alleging there is misrepresented data less than a month before the bear hunt is scheduled to begin.

Lawyers will present these opposing viewpoints before Judges Edwin H. Stern, Donald Collester and Jack M. Sabatino, according to Lin.  "I believe the facts in the documents show the (bear) policy is unscientific," Lin said.

The state DEP would not comment Tuesday on the groups' statements, spokeswoman Darlene Yuhas said.  "All we'll say today is that at Gov. Corzine's request, (DEP) Commissioner (Lisa P.) Jackson is reviewing the comprehensive bear management policy and expects to a render a decision shortly," Yuhas said.


New Jersey Governor Will Not Approve Bear Hunt

Courtesy of U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance & www.ussportsmen.org

New Jersey Gov. Jon Corzine plans to cancel the 2006 black bear hunt by refusing to sign the state’s hunting and fishing regulations.


Gov. Corzine, who is a staunch opponent of the state’s bear season, refuses to approve a routine five-year renewal of state fish and wildlife regulations.  The measure, which regulates hunting and fishing in New Jersey, calls for annual black bear hunts through 2009.


“The U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation is committed to ensuring the future of bear hunting in New Jersey,” said U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance Foundation (USSAF) Senior Vice President Rick Story.  “Our legal team is evaluating the situation to determine our options in protecting the hunt.”


The USSAF and the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen’s Clubs sued the DEP and its Commissioner, Bradley Campbell, when the Commissioner cancelled the 2004 black bear hunt.  The sportsmen’s groups argued that the council’s authority to set hunting seasons is not subject to a DEP veto.  A lower court agreed, but the Supreme Court handed the authority to the Commissioner.


In 2003, when the state initially approved its bear season, the USSAF battled antis’ legal challenges to stop the hunt.  It has been in court each year since to protect the hunt.


This year’s bear season is scheduled to begin Dec. 4.


Bear Feeding Leads To Felony Conviction

VTF&W NEWS:  For Immediate Release:  October 18, 2006

Media Contact:  Major David LeCours 802-241-3700

WATERBURY, VT -- Sandra R. Banks, age 56, of Montgomery Vermont was arraigned on October 2, 2006 in Franklin District Court for charges stemming from a violation of an order prohibiting feeding bears.  Banks was convicted for felony cultivation of marijuana and given a four-year deferred jail sentence.  She also received a $500 fine for violating an order not to feed bears. 


A search warrant was conducted by Vermont State Game Wardens on the Banks’ premises on September 22, for putting out food that attracted bears after being warned not to do so, and subsequently an indoor marijuana growing operation was discovered in an outbuilding at her residence.  The indoor growing operation included a controlled environment using grow lights, fertilizers, fans, temperature and humidity controls.  A number of plants were found growing along with processed marijuana in quantities which constituted a felony.  


Banks had previously been issued an order by a Vermont State Game Warden to stop feeding bears and to remove all bird feeders that may attract bears.   

Bears attracted to artificial food sources provided by humans, including bird feeders, often become dependent on those food sources and have to be destroyed when they pose a threat to people.


Vermont law prohibits anyone from shooting a bear if they have intentionally placed bait or food, including within a bird feeder, to lure wildlife onto their property within the past 30 days.  The law also authorizes the Fish & Wildlife Department to order a person to remove any food that may be attracting bears, including bird feeders.  A person who shoots a bear after putting out food for wildlife, including bird feeders, may be fined up to $1,000.  A person who does not remove the food after being warned to do so may be fined up to $500.


Preliminary 2006 September Bear Season Numbers

Licensed black bear hunters took to the woods of western and central Massachusetts during the September 5–23 early season and emerged with 125 bruins. A male bear weighing 382 pounds was taken with a bow and arrow in Holyoke and a sow (female bear) weighing 298 pounds was taken with a bow and arrow in Sandisfield. Last year, 98 bears were taken in the September season.

Preliminary figures indicate the Western District office checked in 66 bears. The three check stations in the Connecticut Valley checked in a total of 55 bears. The Central District checked 3 bears, and the Westboro Field Headquarters checked 1. Rifles, muzzleloaders, archery equipment and certain handguns were permitted during the September season. Bear hunters are reminded that the November portion of the bear season is now three weeks long. The expanded second season begins November 6 and ends November 25, 2006.


DNR Announces 2006 Final Black Bear Hunt Numbers
3rd Hunt Declared a Success

MT. NEBO -- The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) today announced the final numbers for the 2006 black bear hunting season. The hunt was officially closed as of October 24, at 9:00 p.m.

The 2006 bear season opened Monday, October 23, one half-hour before sunrise in Garrett and Allegany counties. As of Wednesday, October 25, 41 bears have been reported to official check stations. The harvest objective for the 2006 bear hunt was 35-55 bears.

The estimated average weight of the bears taken this year was 161lbs. The largest was a 464 lb. male bear taken by William Corbin of Oakland in Garrett County.

The hunt by the numbers:
• 41 bears taken
• 39 from Garrett County, 2 from Allegany
• 161 lbs. average weight
• 78% of the bears were taken on private land
• 63% of successful hunters live in the hunt area
• 451 hunters participated in the hunt and 2,402 hunters applied for a permit.

For more information, please contact Karina Blizzard in Wildlife and Heritage Services at 240-446-4357


NC to allow bear hunting in sanctuary for first time since 1970

(Burnsville, N.C.-AP) October 16, 2006 - State officials are allowing bear hunting in one of ten mountain sanctuaries for the first time since the areas were established in 1970.

Officials say too many bears led them to open up the Mount Mitchell Bear Sanctuary in Yancey County beginning Thursday. Wildlife biologist Mark Jones says the program to protect the bears has been too effective and there's a need to remove some of the bears from the sanctuary.

Bear hunting season opens in western North Carolina next Monday. The hunting in the Mount Mitchell Sanctuary will start Thursday and be allowed on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays on eight weekends between now and year's end.

Some locals oppose lifting the ban.

Deer hunter Phil Sparks is opposed to lifting the ban. He says the bears shouldn't be hunted now because they're trying to put on fat for the winter. Sparks says he also doesn't like the practice of the bears being chased by packs of hounds.


Sunday, October 15, 2006


The Express-Times (Easton, PA)

Whether or not New Jersey will have a bear hunt this year is in the hands of Gov. Jon Corzine, who could make a decision by the end of this month. Previous hunts -- the last two were held in early December -- sparked angry public disputes between hunters and animal rights activists.

Opponents of the hunt have been lobbying the administration to implement a non-lethal black bear management plan.

"Up to this point it has been mostly that they have been taking the information and we've gotten questions and requests for more," said Janine Mottta, spokeswoman for the New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance. "So far we haven't heard whether there will be a hunt this year or not."

Under state law, the Fish and Game Council adopts a Fish and Game Code annually to protect and conserve the state's fish and game population. The governor then reviews it and has the option to make changes, approve it as it is or not take any action, in which case the previous year's code stays in place.

The clock is ticking, and Corzine is expected to render a decision or request more time by the end of October.

Both last year's and this year's codes hold provisions for a bear hunt, said Elaine Makatura, spokeswoman for the state Department of Environmental Protection.

John Rogalo, vice president of the New Jersey State Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, said his organization members want the decision "to be based on science, not public opinion."

Bear hunts were suspended in 1971 when the state's bear population dwindled to less than 100. The state Division of Fish and Wildlife tried in 2000 to reinstate the hunt to lower a growing bruin population. Opposition from the public caused then-Gov. Christie Whitman to cancel the hunt.

Hunts were held in 2003 and 2005. Together the two hunts' kills tallied 626 bears, according to the Division of Fish and Wildlife.

In 2004 DEP Commissioner Bradley Campbell canceled the hunt in a dispute with the state Fish and Game Council. He citied among his concerns poor population data estimates. Campbell said he wanted to create a comprehensive non-lethal management plan. In the legal battle that followed, the state Supreme Court ruled Campbell had the authority to cancel the hunt.

"I certainly hope (the hunt) doesn't happen," said Lynda Smith, director of the Bear Education and Resource Group. "I think it is clear the public is opposed to it, and we haven't been seeing the numbers we usually see. I'm very concerned they have been over hunted."

It is difficult to say how many bears roam the state, Motta said, though through conversations with bear country residents she said it seems their numbers have diminished.

"It is our opinion that the Fish and Wildlife estimates vastly inflated the numbers in order to call for a hunt," she said. "Subsequently because so many bears have been killed the population is much smaller than Fish and Wildlife is letting on."

Then-Gov. James McGreevey passed a law in 2002 prohibiting intentional feeding of bruins, including unsecured Dumpsters and trash cans. Smith said the law hasn't been properly enforced and the hunt doesn't address the main draws fueling bear and human contact.

"The problem isn't really how many bears there are," she said. "The problem is how people are coexisting with them. We need to stop luring them into our neighborhood with garbage."

According to the state Division of Fish and Wildlife in 2005 there were 1,104 black bear complaints, not including calls handled by local law enforcement. There was one attack on a person and 358 garbage incidents.

Bear advocates said they'd like to see bear-proof garbage receptacles, more public education and resources for local law enforcement and more aversion therapy techniques used -- such as shooting bears with rubber bullets.

"Corzine ran saying he was opposed to the hunt," Smith said. "I'd like to see him follow through on his word."




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