Andy Kerr

Conservationist, Writer, Analyst, Operative, Agitator, Strategist, Tactitian, Schmoozer, Raconteur

Lions and Hunters and Bears, Oh My!

By Andy Kerr

Column #6 - Go to next column

Length: 739 words

Published: 10 October 1996, Wallowa County Chieftain

In 1994, the voters decided to ban the use of dogs and baiting in the hunting of bears and cougars. The issue is before the voters again, not just as a measure to return to the 1994 status quo, but also to repeal any and all useful regulations enacted since 1975 to protect humans and/or wildlife by the state forestry, parks, agriculture, and lands agencies, or any local jurisdiction. It goes too far.

The ballot measure to once-again allow the use of dogs and baiting in the hunting of bears and cougars gets to the heart of human attitudes toward large predatory wildlife.

It is not sporting to intentionally wound a treed animal out of the tree to allow your dogs to fight it. All bears and cougars are not treed. Some turn and fight the dogs and many dogs die. That is inhumane and cruel. It is no way to treat a dog, or a bear or a cougar.

The 1994 measure did not stop the hunting or killing of bears and cougars. At least 624 bears and 31 cougars were killed by real hunters who know their art, who know how to track, stalk and call. Yes, some slob hunters who can only get their prey by the use of dogs with radio collars or by setting up a bait station and wait for the bear haven't been successful. Nor should they be.

Setting up bait stations condition the bears to look to humans for food. If it's not at the bait station, they'll look to campgrounds and backyards. It is also not sporting to shoot a mama bear in the butt while she has her head in a barrel eating doughnuts.

I'm pro-hunting. Large mammals have died by my trigger finger. I've eaten bear meat (it does not take a lot like chicken). The use of dogs and bait give hunting a bad name and tend to turn the public against the noble act of hunting.

Cougars are increasing in number in Oregon. "You can't relate it to the ballot measure because the population has been on the increase since before 1994," says Mark Henjum, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife biologist. "It seems like more [cougars] are getting to trouble; most of it happens on the edge of wild country, where humans are building homes."

Cougars are recovering from a century as a varmint with the goal being extermination. It is now being classified a game animal with the goal of sustainable harvest.

I live about equidistant from the wilderness and the city and have neighbors who set up feeding stations for deer. If there are more deer there will likely be more cougars. Some of these same neighbors get upset when cougars show up. It's not like they didn't invite them.

Cougar hunting doesn't really help minimize cougar-human interactions. The hunters seek the big trophies in the backcountry, while the problem animals are young adults in the front country.

"(P)roponents of hunting should not claim that hunting cougars is necessary to maintain pubic safety," says Paul Beier, author of the only peer-reviewed study on cougar-human encounters appearing in a major wildlife journal. "Quite simply, sport hunting does not reduce the risk of cougar attacks on humans."

Where problem animals exist, the current law provides professional wildlife managers the authority to dispatch them.

If one living one the edge—the edge between town and wild— doesn't want to accept the minimal risk of encountering a wild predator, one should live in the city and accept a far greater risk of encountering a human predator.

Ballot Measure 34 isn't about hunting; it is about whether to allow certain methods of hunting, methods that are as unnecessary as they are cruel.

As the top species, do we need to sic dogs on wildlife, for the "sport" of it? Humans, as a species, are better than that; and it is the duty of society to set a standard for the small number of miscreants who don't get it. That is why dog-fighting and cock-fighting were outlawed. They are barbaric and cruel and official sanction condones actions from the dark side of some members of our species. The same is true for the use of dogs and baiting in the hunting of large predators.

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