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Bears get a drink

Photo of bear family by Bill Lea: www.BillLea.com

"Seeing bears as they really are takes a total mind shift. We interpret their behavior in terms of their fear rather than our fear. … Large and small they are basically timid.” — Bear biologist Lynn Rogers, founder of the North American Bear Center

Hunters are destroying the Earth’s tigers, rhinos, lions, elephants, bears, giraffes, bighorn sheep, buffalo, cheetahs, wolverines, cougars, jaguars, leopards, and the iconic species that have graced our world.

Without the majority of citizens demanding a new model of cooperation and respect for the wildlife left, there is little hope they can survive.

The DNR-orchestrated recreational killing of 4,550 bears, mostly cubs, using dogs and bait has been 35 days of hell for all bears, and death for one of every six bears in the state as of October.

The television networks and Wisconsin Public Radio have not found it worthy of reporting.

Department of Natural Resources “large carnivore specialist” Scott Walter is featured in a video teaching children that loosing packs of dogs on wildlife is fun and adult-approved. Note the girl constantly stroking the dog. She would naturally do the same with the coyote pup she will be taught to kill. She would delight in the bear cub she will be taught is “fair game” and fun to shoot out of a tree after the dogs have ripped at her and arrows have pierced her.

When I emailed Walter to ask him about the additional hundreds of bears killed as “nuisances,” I asked him to explain the criteria of what constitutes a “threat to human health and safety” that earns so many extra death sentences.

Lynn Rogers, bear biologist who has studied black bears for over 50 years and knows them better than anyone, founded the North American Bear Center in Ely, Minnesota. For 10 years, Lynn has taken 8 to 10 random people out walking with wild bears 8 to 10 times each summer to teach them bear etiquette and dispel the harmful myths about bears. Lynn has never had anyone harmed by wild bears. When I mentioned this to Walter, he ended communication on what constitutes a bear “threat to human health and safety,” without giving criteria.

“New Lily fans are asking some of the questions that Lily veterans asked earlier. One person phrased it nicely, saying ‘Do you have a plan in case Lily were to try to hurt you? She's a wild bear with a baby. What would you do if she were to think Hope was in danger and let instinct overtake conditioning? Do you have a place nearby you could be safe? What would you do?’

"Actually, we don’t even think about being attacked. If most of you were here, you would shortly be the same. We know it’s hard to imagine after seeing taxidermy, hunting magazines, and the sensationalized TV programs that are so common. Seeing bears as they really are takes a total mind shift. We interpret their behavior in terms of their fear rather than our fear. Their lives are ruled by fear and food. Large and small, they are basically timid. For research, we try to build trust, not fear. When we walk with them, we are sensitive to their concerns like most of you would naturally be. Each has its own personality. It’s easy to read their limits and when they feel uncomfortable.

"To take videos of wild bear behavior, Sue accompanies mothers and cubs far from roads. She is among them with her video camera inches away at times as they forage. The bears mostly ignore us. If they even look at one of us, we wonder why. They are mostly busy working. We feel privileged, not afraid. We show sensitivity to their concerns like most of you would naturally do. ...

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"We don’t consider little ‘message’ bites or slaps to be attacks. They’re communication. We have never had a bear come after us and hurt us. The few misunderstandings we’ve had in the many times we initiated contact have never required professional attention.

"We’ve both gone through years of learning to read bears. It would come naturally to most of you. It’s basically a matter of opening our minds to what we are seeing and not being swayed by the sensationalized media.

"... In reality, attacks are rare. We should know. We have pushed the envelope for decades and have yet to discover a way to make a bear attack short of attacking it, and then they mostly want nothing more than to escape.”

Action Alert:

Since 1964, the Land and Water Conservation Fund has opened more than 5 million acres of public land, investing more than $16 billion in expanding hunting and trapping access to our public lands. The hunters and trappers want to open up 9.5 million more acres of public land to their killing of our wildlife. This is the most powerful use of our federal funds to destroy our wildlife and public lands with shooting ranges, traps, dogs, lead shot, and ATV access for killing. Please contact your legislators to end this outdated disastrous funding.

Patricia Randolph of Portage is a longtime activist for wildlife. madravenspeak@gmail.com or www.wiwildlifeethic.org

Share your opinion on this topic by sending a letter to the editor to tctvoice@madison.com. Include your full name, hometown and phone number. Your name and town will be published. The phone number is for verification purposes only. Please keep your letter to 250 words or less.

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