The Routinization of Bear Killings - TribPapers

The Routinization of Bear Killings

Photo by Pete Nuij.

Asheville – The long days of bloodshed are upon us, and with them come the weapons of autumn. In our national forests belonging to all tax-paying American citizens come mostly men and some women, armed to the teeth, are accompanied by bony hunting hounds deprived of food in the days prior to the hunt in order to incentivize their drive for the kill. As a devoted animal advocate, I dread the days that bring the death of those I love. It is unfathomable to me how anyone can gaze upon the wonder of a leggy faun(some deer suffer for more than 15 minutes before dying, reports a British study on deer hunting)or smile at the sight of a chubby cub and yet once that bear reaches 75lbs (how exactly can a hunter tell how much that youngster weighs is the question. They can’t, of course, take that animal’s life because it’s fun. Too soon, too soon comes the falling of the leaves and, with them, the falling bodies. The routinization of killing has begun.

Photo by Vidar Nordli.
Photo by Vidar Nordli.

Thanks to technical advances, hunting has become an exercise in killing by remote. Many bear killers and wannabe killers will sit in their trucks, armed with receivers, monitoring the radio collar activity of their dogs, who terrorize these poor creatures up a tree. Bullet after bullet, arrow upon arrow pierces the bear’s body until no longer able to hold on, the magnificent animal plunges to the ground, sometimes still alive for the dogs to then tear apart amid the cheers of his executioners. The Maine BowHunters Alliance estimates half of archery victims are wounded, not killed. And PETA reports that of 80 radio-collared deer, 11 of the 22 shot with the bow escaped to probably suffer death by starvation. You can imagine the fate of an arrow-ridden bear. The Royal Society for the Protection of Children and Animals reports that due to humanitarian outrage in Britain, hunting with dogs was banned in 2005. Today, 85% of Brits agree that chasing wildlife to the point of collapse, whereby innumerable dogs attack and savagely kill them, is wrong. British hunters have been able to squeeze around the law to a degree, but even so, individuals have been successfully prosecuted. We need this ban here in North Carolina.

In the state of NC, there is no law forbidding the slaying of a pregnant sow. Killers and wannabes will tell you they would never knowingly kill a pregnant woman, but how can they know for sure? Bears mate in the summer. The hunting season begins in mid-October. I know of an incident where a female bear was killed and, upon gutting her open, cubs were found. Those babies were never allowed to take their first breath, let alone utter their first purr. You read correctly. Cubs purr. There is no limit to the number of bears killed per season. All, all, all perfectly legal in the Tarheel state.

To make it worse, the bears are not the only victims. Ask your local vet. Every year, dogs that have probably spent endless days rotting on the end of a chain are, at last, liberated to aid and abet the autumn blood riot. Killers and wannabes knowingly place these dogs in harm’s way. In the bear’s futile attempt to survive, he will fight off the dogs, and he’s got the claws and teeth with which to do it. Sadly, the dogs pay the price, along with the bears. Ask your vet.

Make no mistake, all this bloodshed has nothing to do with feeding the foodless. Rather, it has everything to do with ego gratification. Why do you think a killer mounts the head of the animal he’s killed over his mantle or takes a selfie with him smiling while holding the dead body? This isn’t just bloodsport, this is egosport. Last year was the first in N.C. whereby hunters were required to extract a tooth from the bear they killed to give to state biologists for study purposes and, in return, receive an orange-colored baseball cap that reads “Co-operator. Does killing for fun amount to co-operation? Go figure.

Hunting, as it is euphemistically called, is really the act of killing or attempting to kill. These guys spend money and lots of it on weapons; the ridiculous BDU (battle dress uniform) camouflage garb they wear very much symbolizing the war against mother nature; multiple licenses(The NC Wildlife Resources Commission makes available an Infant Lifetime Sportsman license for $212, so you see the kill indoctrination is fed to the baby right along with his mother’s milk. You can even personalize the license with “Love, Mom and Dad,” but that will cost you an extra $5.) and trailers to pull the dead beast home. All for the sake of bragging about the senseless murder of a sentient being. This is unadulterated ego in extremis. As kids, we called it showing off.

If you are a defender of the natural world and all its inhabitants, the following is something you can do to protect those you love from those who would kill them. It is against NC law to bait bears on state or federal property. Killers and wannabes buy donuts and other sweets to lure the beasts to their deaths. That’s why during the bear season, you will find many grocery shelves depleted of donuts. Unfortunately, it is perfectly legal to bait deer.

When you go for a hike, keep your eyes alert for donut boxes or food wrappings and take pictures. GPS the location to Phillip Fulmer, State Game Warden of Yancey County, at 704-740-2547; Lt. Sean Martin, State Game Warden of Buncombe, Haywood, and Madison Counties, at (828) 450-6159; or Capt. Andrew Holton, State Game Warden of Buncombe, Haywood, and Madison Counties, at (828) 450-4078.

Angrily, I must make note of the NC Wildlife Resources Commission’s unanimous decision to open 92,500 acres heretofore protected as bear sanctuaries to hunting. Earlier this year, it was slated to begin on October 17th, but that has changed. The sanctuaries will remain protected from January 2, 2022, until January 2, 2023. The Commission is composed of 19 members, 18 of whom are men, and most of them are, you guessed it, hunters and fishermen. How do so few decide the fate of so many? Not a single citizen cast a single vote to place these mostly males on the Commission. They are appointed by the governor and our legislators. Let them be your next call or email and attend the next Commission meeting.

I should point out that 11% of hunters are women. But the number of hunters in the US, according to the US Fish and Wildlife Service, amounts to no more than 5% and is dropping. According to the College of Natural Resources News, “in 1982, nearly 17 million hunters purchased 28.3 million licenses.  Today, only 11.5 million people in the US actually hunt. That’s less than 4% of the national population. ” All this senseless bloodshed is because a puny 4% of Americans love to kill, and most of them are male. In NC, most of the game wardens, many of whom are hunters, are males. Most of the commissioners are male and hunter-gatherers, and they are appointed by a male Governor and a male-dominated Legislature. Hunting and killing are almost entirely controlled and conducted by the males. That’s not to say most men participate in bloodsports. Quite the contrary.

For too long, killers and wannabes have enjoyed recreational killing without being challenged, let alone criticized. That’s where animal lovers come in. Take a stand. Be vocal in your opposition. It’s true that the hunter may accuse you of harassment. Be that as it may, I long for the day when a NC court of law hears the argument between the killer and his right to kill and the animal lover, asserting her constitutional right to freedom of speech in order to save that poor creature’s life. How I would love to have a front row seat in that courtroom.

To love animals and know with the turning of the leaves what awaits is too often, too much. Hunters’ numbers are on decline, and ours are on the rise. Make our voices heard where they matter… at the Capitol.The war against the natural world must be stopped, but we need laws to accomplish that. The power of love strengthened with solidarity is the most life-giving force to be found, and with that love we must demand the abolishment of hunting archery and the steel leg-hold trap, along with a ban on the use of hunting dogs. And that’s just for starters.

We have the numbers. Politicians respond to pressure, be it from the mainstream media, social media, or just you firing off an email. We make their jobs possible. Make our elected officials answer to us.