FacebookTwitterRedditEmail

Time for Personal Responsibility in Bear Country

Yellowstone grizzly. Photo: NPS.

Hunters are afield in the quest for winter meat and it’s time for self-reflection and responsibility. The connection between hunting and grizzly bear-human conflicts is well documented. Many occur when hunters retrieve a carcass, only to find it has been appropriated by a grizzly bear. An alarming number of human injury incidents have occurred to bow hunters, with four in the Gravelly Mountains in one week this fall. In each case firearms were used to break off contact.

Following the mauling of a bow hunter in 2010, Game Warden Sam Sheppard said bears were attracted to the area because hunters had been leaving gut piles. “It’s kind of a little cycle,” he said. “You have a fair number of elk, get some elk hunters, elk hunters have some success and put some carcasses on the ground, with carcasses on the ground, you have bears.” (Associated Press 9/21/2010).

Bears are not stalking people. Most conflicts are the result of surprise encounters. Reaching up to 800 pounds, a surprised, frightened grizzly bear can do lethal damage in mere seconds. Bow hunters quietly stalk, often alone and without bear spray, through landscapes which may be littered with gut piles. These are protein jackpots for bears and other wildlife, who quickly remember this annual food source. It’s a recipe for conflicts. Moreover, grizzly bears hunker down in “day beds,” often in thick forest and underbrush. I know from personal experience that startling a sleeping grizzly bear is frightening for bear and man.

Personal risk and challenge are part of the human psyche, yet each bloody event raises the stakes against the grizzly bear. Defense of life and management removals are significant sources of grizzly bear mortality and are sharply on the rise.

It’s time for proactive measures including a “hang it or haul it” rule prohibiting leaving carcasses on the ground overnight, including gut piles. I co-signed an official request to Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks to require hunters to carry bear spray. The state used technical arguments to reject it, ignoring common sense and public safety. National Forests in the Greater Yellowstone rejected a similar request. We are required by the State to wear life jackets when boating because it saves lives. Hunters must wear hunter orange. You can’t spotlight wildlife and technologies deemed unsportsmanlike have been banned.

Yet, we all know voluntary actions are not enough as it only takes a few non-volunteers to raise the risks for all. Would everyone wear hunter orange if it wasn’t required? So at least for this Fall, it comes down to personal responsibility and common sense. Carry bear spray and know how to use it. Quietly stalking through underbrush and deadfall with limited visibility is a bad idea. Avoid hunting alone and at dawn and dusk when bears are more active. Couples should consider taking turns hunting, with the other close by on the lookout. If you must leave part of a carcass overnight, have company when you retrieve it, including a lookout. Have bear spray out and ready. If the carcass is buried with dirt and sticks or there is sign of bear presence, leave. Elk steaks are awesome, but not worth dying for.

The grizzly bear is an indicator of ecosystem health and human-caused mortality has greatly increased. Most is avoidable and preventable, yet bear-human conflicts cannot be totally eliminated, especially with the skyrocketing levels of human use in backcountry areas that are the bear’s stronghold. That is, surprise encounters will occur. However, we do have the ability to change the odds through our own behaviors, while we demand responsible leadership on this issue at the state and federal level.

More information: BeBearAware.org

More articles by:

Mike Bader of Missoula is an independent consultant who has been involved in grizzly bear research and management issues since 1982 and has published several professional papers and reports on grizzly bear distribution, habitat, mortality and behavior.

bernie-the-sandernistas-cover-344x550
Weekend Edition
December 06, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Jeffrey St. Clair
Eat an Impeachment
Matthew Hoh
Authorizations for Madness; The Effects and Consequences of Congress’ Endless Permissions for War
Jefferson Morley
Why the Douma Chemical Attack Wasn’t a ‘Managed Massacre’
Andrew Levine
Whatever Happened to the Obama Coalition?
Paul Street
The Dismal Dollar Dems and the Subversion of Democracy
Dave Lindorff
Conviction and Removal Aren’t the Issue; It’s Impeachment of Trump That is Essential
Ron Jacobs
Law Seminar in the Hearing Room: Impeachment Day Six
Linda Pentz Gunter
Why Do We Punish the Peacemakers?
Louis Proyect
Michael Bloomberg and Me
Robert Hunziker
Permafrost Hits a Grim Threshold
Joseph Natoli
What We Must Do
Evaggelos Vallianatos
Global Poison Spring
Robert Fantina
Is Kashmir India’s Palestine?
Charles McKelvey
A Theory of Truth From the South
Walden Bello
How the Battle of Seattle Made the Truth About Globalization True
Evan Jones
BNP Before a French Court
Norman Solomon
Kerry’s Endorsement of Biden Fits: Two Deceptive Supporters of the Iraq War
Torsten Bewernitz – Gabriel Kuhn
Syndicalism for the Twenty-First Century: From Unionism to Class-Struggle Militancy
Matthew Stevenson
Across the Balkans: From Banja Luka to Sarajevo
Thomas Knapp
NATO is a Brain Dead, Obsolete, Rabid Dog. Euthanize It.
Forrest Hylton
Bolivia’s Coup Government: a Far-Right Horror Show
M. G. Piety
A Lesson From the Danes on Immigration
Ellen Isaacs
The Audacity of Hypocrisy
Monika Zgustova
Chernobyl, Lies and Messianism in Russia
Manuel García, Jr.
From Caesar’s Last Breath to Ours
Binoy Kampmark
Going to the ICJ: Myanmar, Genocide and Aung San Suu Kyi’s Gamble
Jill Richardson
Marijuana and the Myth of the “Gateway Drug”
Muzamil Bhat
Srinagar’s Shikaras: Still Waters Run Deep Losses
Gaither Stewart
War and Betrayal: Change and Transformation
Farzana Versey
What Religion is Your Nationalism?
Clark T. Scott
The Focus on Trump Reveals the Democrat Model
Kollibri terre Sonnenblume
Do Bernie’s Supporters Know What “Not Me, Us” Means? Does Bernie?
Peter Harley
Aldo Leopold, Revisited
Winslow Myers
A Presidential Speech the World Needs to Hear
Christopher Brauchli
The Chosen One
Jim Britell
Misconceptions About Lobbying Representatives and Agencies
Ted Rall
Trump Gets Away with Stuff Because He Does
Mel Gurtov
Hong Kong, Xinjiang, and the Insecurity of China’s Leadership
Nicky Reid
Dennis Kucinich, Tulsi Gabbard and the Slow Death of the Democratic Delusion
Tom H. Hastings
Cross-Generational Power to Change
John Kendall Hawkins
1619: The Mighty Whitey Arrives
Julian Rose
Why I Don’t Have a Mobile Phone
David Yearsley
Parasitic Sounds
Elliot Sperber
Class War is Chemical War
December 05, 2019
Colin Todhunter
Don’t Look, Don’t See: Time for Honest Media Reporting on Impacts of Pesticides
FacebookTwitterRedditEmail