Black Bear Task Force -
The HSUS supports recommendations by Maryland Black Bear Task Force (BBTF) to conserve black bears and their habitat, better understand bears and human-bear interactions through research and monitoring, and to determine and document public opinion and concerns about bears through a public attitude survey. We whole-heartedly support the concept of conflict resolution through aversive conditioning programs that are directed at bears at the immediate time and place where problems are occurring. We understand that lethal control of black bears will be called for where human safety is immediately threatened or damage to agricultural pursuits warrants such an approach after other means have been tried and failed.
We are concerned with, and do not support, recommendations and management concepts arising out of this task force initiative that establish recreational pursuit of Maryland's black bears, advocate indiscriminate killing (i.e. a general hunting season) of bears as a "management" tool, and focus on bears as a "resource" whose value is measured and weighed in terms of services provided, or conflicts caused, in interactions with humans.
The HSUS opposes the hunting of animals for sport and that opposition constitutes the basis for our rejecting this recommendation. However, we are also concerned that the concept of "recreation" and "management" are admixed in a manner suggesting that the recreational pursuit of bears could provide an effective management tool, even solution, in addressing human-bear conflicts. The task force was not presented with sufficient evidence to substantiate this proposed association. The evidence that we examined as a group from other state programs suggests that environmental factors, such as mast yield and drought, as well as human behavior resulting in the habituation of bears, influence bear-human conflicts far more substantially than general bear population numbers. In the face of such uncertainty, we feel the advocacy of even "management" hunts of Maryland's black bears would be ill advised and inappropriate.
The general concept of maintaining bear population levels at Cultural Carrying Capacity is also problematic because the level of acceptance of the Maryland public for bears has yet to be measured. Assuming acceptance to be associated with tolerance, we must acknowledge that tolerance is not a static, but a dynamic phenomenon. Education, damage compensation programs, habitat protection incentives, and the simple continued association of people and bears can all lead to increased tolerance and understanding.
The view of bears as "a valuable natural resource" resonates throughout the draft report. The HSUS regards this viewpoint as anthropocentric and advocates and endorses the opposing viewpoint encompassed by the approach often termed "biocentric." To us, bears are more than a resource to be utilized or a nuisance to be controlled. They have dignity and status as members of a biotic community, are associated with desirable environmental and ecosystem values, and should be recognized as such.
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This page last updated April 01, 2003