Alaska Lt. Governor Approves Initial Step in Initiative to Ban Bear Baiting

Alaska’s Lt. Governor Loren Leman approved the language of an initiative petition that, if successful, would ban bear baiting in that state.

Opponents of bear baiting argue that it is both unethical and potentially dangerous. Alaskan wilderness guide John Erickson told the Associated Press that the practice teaches bears to seek out human-supplied sources of food,

We are teaching them to eat garbage out in the woods. Once you get a bear in the dump, they are a garbage bear.

Black bears are the only species that Alaska allows hunters to bait, and close to 20 percent of the 2,500 bears killed annually in Alaska are black bears that are killed after having been baited. There are an estimated 100,000 black bears in Alaska.

The Humane Society of the United States argues that bear baiting is “unfair.” Wayne Pacelle told the Associated Press,

It’s not surprising wherever baiting occurs, it’s enormously controversial. It cannot
withstand public scrutiny, because it’s so unfair to the bear and because it causes obvious conflicts between bears and humans.

Supporters counter that it is no more unfair than using bird calls and decoys to attract birds or using baited hooks to catch fish. Or, as Alaska Daily News outdoor editor Craig Medred put it,

Yes, I know, some will say, “Well, gee, that doesn’t sound fair.”

It isn’t. Hunting isn’t fair. And it doesn’t matter whether the hunting is done by humans, wolves or, for that matter, bears. Predators are the animals with weapons, fangs and claws. The prey are the animals with the tasty flesh.

In the long-running and ongoing dance between predator and prey, individual predators are destined to win, and individual prey are destined to lose. The only thing that keeps the system going is the ability of the prey to — for lack of a better analogy — breed like rabbits.

This is the way nature works. There is nothing fair about it.

Supporters of the ban now must collect 23,286 in at least 27 election districts in order to place the initiative on the 2004 ballot.

Sources:

Baiting is traditional form of bear hunting. Craig Medred, Alaska Daily News, July 6, 2003.

Critics of bear baiting aim at voters. Mike Chambers, Associated Press, July 7, 2003.

Leman approves bear baiting initiative petition. Kenai Peninsula Online, June 20, 2003.

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