Letter: Time to end support for bear hounding
To the Editor:
Most Vermont residents are familiar with deer and turkey hunting seasons, but there are other seasons less well-known and less morally acceptable.
Bear hound "training" season starts on June 1 and extends all summer long until Sept. 15. On Sept. 1, bear hunting starts, which includes the use of hounds. It runs right through November. Bears are terrorized in the woods — their home — for six long months by packs of powerful radio-collared hounds. Their owners sit in trucks, often miles away, using handheld GPS devices to track the dogs. There is no way bear hunters can control where these dogs run or what victims they are terrorizing.
Many species in addition to bears are endangered by hounding including domestic pets and livestock, as well as wild animals like moose calves, fawns, and other wildlife, including endangered species. This is especially devastating during the "training" season when wild animals are birthing, nursing, and raising their dependent young.
Bears exit their dens in poor condition after a long winter without much food. Forcing these vulnerable animals to flee from packs of hounds causes them to expend vital calories and burn critical fat reserves. This form of "recreation" is not only unethical, but also unsportsmanlike. In fact, what about hounding, often referred to as recreation, could possibly be considered sportsmanlike? One lone bear against six tenacious dogs and multiple armed hunters is more akin to animal fighting than hunting.
Another tragic consequence of this "sport" is the separation of mother bears, or sows, from their frightened cubs. Hounds cannot read and trespass private property each year, placing pets and livestock in danger. A public hiking trail, frequented by tourists and Vermont residents, was the site of an attack by bear hounds last fall. A couple and their puppy were seriously injured before the hounds' owner was able to locate his dogs and get them under control (40 minutes later!).
In my opinion as a conservation biologist, the VT Fish and Wildlife Department needs to stop supporting these sadistic and cruel acts that are inflicted on wildlife. It should honor its mission, utilize current science to create management policies, and educate its constituents about the need to co-exist with many species traditionally victimized and vilified.
Predators are remarkably beneficial to ecosystems and, if we humans want to continue to thrive on this planet, we must protect wildlife and habitat. Uncontrollable and reckless activities like bear hounding threaten too many vulnerable species and need to be relegated to the history books.
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