Maryland Bear Hunt to Begin as Scheduled

Despite a 12-7 vote against Maryland’s proposed bear hunt by the Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review Committee, Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. said the bear hunt would go forward as planned this October.

The Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review Committee is charged with reviewing rules and decisions by stage agencies, and it voted 12-7 in late August to oppose the Maryland Department of Natural Resources plans to allow a bear hunt. The vote means that Gov. Ehrlich must personally approve the bear hunt, and a spokesman for the governor said the DNR would be allowed to proceed with the planned hunt.

Paul F. Schurick, spokesman for Gov. Ehrlich, told the Baltimore Sun,

The governor is going to allow DNR to move ahead with their plan. The governor asked the scientists at DNR for a recommendation, and the science has not changed.

Animal rights groups claimed the bear hunt was simply a quid pro quo reward to the National Rifle Association for its support of the governor. Humane Society of the United States president Wayne Pacelle told The Baltimore Sun,

This hunt amounts to a political payback by the governor to the NRA and other trophy-hunting advocacy groups who have supported him.

Paul Peditto, director of DNR’s Wildlife and Heritage Service, countered that the justification for the bear hunt was based on sound scientific management practice. Peditto noted that the DNR currently receives about 150 complaints a week about bear activity and told The Baltimore Sun,

We now average more than 30 bears who are hit and killed by cars in Western Maryland a year, often injuring drivers. To our mind, the time has come to stabilize our bear population so that people and bears can coexist.

Maryland’s bear hunt is scheduled for Oct. 25 through Oct. 30 with a limit of 30 bears to be killed. If 30 bears are not killed in October, an additional season from Dec. 6 to Dec. 11 is planned.


Governor says fall black bear hunt will go on. Tom Pelton, The Baltimore Sun, August 26, 2004.

Legislative panel hears arguments to halt bear hunt. Gretchen Parker, Associated Press, August 25, 2004.

Panel Votes Against Bear Hunt. David A. Fahrenthold, Washington Post, August 26, 2004.

HSUS and Fund for Animals On Mourning Dove Hunting Bill in Minnesota

The Humane Society of the United States and the Fund for Animals issued a press release this week complaining about the close vote that saw the Minnesota legislature approve a bill authorizing the first mourning dove hunt in that state in nearly 60 years.

According to the HSUS press release, a bill that would have stricken the mourning dove provision from the bill originally passed 35-31, but when it was brought up for reconsideration, two senators switched their votes and another abstained, which led to the amendment’s defeat and the mourning dove hunt staying in the bill.

The press release quotes HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle as blaming the entire bill on business who want to sell more ammunition to hunters,

By the narrowest of margins, the Senate has decided to reverse a policy that has endured for nearly 60 years and to allow the target shooting of harmless mourning doves. Legislators who voted to allow the needless target shooting of harmless doves dismissed the views of mainstream Minnesotans and instead sided with gun and hunting manufacturers who simply want to sell more ammunition.

Fund for Animals president Michael Markarian added,

Hunting mourning doves serves no wildlife management purpose. There is no overpopulation problem and the birds pose no threat to any person or agricultural interest. In fact, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service indicates that dove numbers are rapidly dropping in Minnesota.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service did in fact show a dramatic drop in the number of doves observed in Minnesota, but this seems more likely to due with the population dynamics of the mourning dove population. In referring to the rapidly dropping population, I’m assuming Markarian is referring to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s estimates that in 2002 there were 16.4 million breeding pairs in Minnesota compared to only 9.3 million in 2003.

But mourning dove populations take very large jumps, both positive and negative, over the years — likely due to the migratory nature of the birds. For example, in Kansas the number of breeding pairs declined by almost 30 million in 1995, only to increase by almost 30 million in 1996. (Another possibility is that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s method of estimating the dove population is prone to gross variations from year to year).

There is, however, a generally accepted decline in the mourning dove population due to development, but the total population in the United States is estimated to be in excess of 500 million. Certainly it is not a species that is in any danger of becoming threatened due to hunting.


HSUS Decries Legislation to Allow Target Shooting of Doves in Minn.,; Dove Hunting Has Been Banned for Nearly 60 Years. Press Release, Humane Society of the United States, May 11, 2004.

Mourning Dove Population Status 2003. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2004.

Mourning Dove Population Status 2002. U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, 2003.

Wayne Pacelle Appointed HSUS CEO

On April 26, 2004, the Humane Society of the United States announced that Wayne Pacelle would become its next chief executive officer. Pacelle will fill the vacancy left by retiring CEO Paul Irwin.

Pacelle has served as HSUS senior vice-president for the last 10 years. In a press release, HSUS chair David O. Wiebers said,

I am pleased to announce that The Humane Society of the United States has named a dynamic, aggressive, and visionary leader to direct our domestic and global efforts to protect animals, to halt animal cruelty and abuse, and to protect their habitats. Wayne Pacelle has long been one of the nation’s leading advocates of social reforms to benefit animals, and our Board of Directors recognized that we need a leader of his determination and inspiration in facing the challenges of the 21st century.

In a press releasing announcing his appointment, Pacelle said,

The HSUS will continue to focus on protecting companion animals and wildlife, but we will make aggressive and unprecedented efforts to halt institutional forms of animal abuse, including the mistreatment of animals on industrial factory farms. In order to succeed, we need the participation of millions of Americans in our cause to root out suffering and abuse. I want to invite every American who cares about animals to join with us in pursuing our important mission.

The press release notes that HSUS has “an annual budget in excess of $80 million . . . [and] a staff of nearly 300 people. . .”


The Humane Society of the United States Appoints Wayne Pacelle as Chief Executive Officer – Designate. Press Release, Humane Society of the United States, April 26, 2004.

Maryland DNR Rejects $75,000 from Fund for Animals and HSUS

The Fund for Animals and the Humane Society of the United States made a financial offer to the Maryland Department of Natural Resources in March: withdraw plans for a Fall bear hunt season, and the two groups would donate $75,000 to the DNR to compensate property owners for damage from bears as well as help education Maryland residents on managing bear-human conflict.

On April 14, the Maryland DNR said it was willing to accept the $75,000 from the groups but could not agree to the stipulation that the bear hunt season be withdrawn,

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) today accepted a funding offer from the Fund for Animals and the Humane Society of the United States to mitigate bear and human conflicts. While accepting the funding, DNR rejected the stipulation that the proposed bear hunting season be cancelled.

The funding offer, $75,000 in total, would be used to further the financial resources DNR currently dedicates for bear damage compensation and bear-human conflict management. Specifically, these funds would be used to compensate individuals who document bear damage and to implement an aversive conditioning and bear education campaign in bear-occupied areas.

“While we may not agree on the hunting regulation proposal, I hope that the Fund for Animals and Humane Society of the United StatesÂ’ commitment to assist us is sincere and that we can count on their financial and philosophical support for the remaining non-lethal and education strategies in our bear management plan,” said DNR Wildlife & Heritage Service Director Paul A. Peditto.

This was, in this writer’s opinion, a clever strategy to take, especially Peditto’s comments when he had to know full well that HSUS and the Fund would both interpret this as a rejection. Oddly, the conservative Washington Times ran an op-ed by Gene Mueller who completely missed the point here> Mueller chastised the DNR for getting into bed with animal rights groups and wrote,

I’ll wager the well-heeled Fund for Animals and the Humane Society are having parties right now, celebrating the fact that they got a foot into the door of an agency that regulates all the hunting and fishing of an American state.

Hardly. In fact The Fund for Animals and Humane Society of the United States released a press release the same day noting that the DNR had rejected its offer,

The Fund for Animals and The Humane Society of the United States learned today that the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has rejected a substantial financial offer for solving bear conflicts and compensating farmers for bear damage. In a March 17 letter, the two organizations offered collectively to provide $75,000 to compensate farmers for bear damage and expand educational programs to solve bear conflicts, if the DNR’s plan for the first bear hunt in fifty years was withdrawn.

In that press release, Fund president Mark Markarian said,

It is clear that the DNR is not seeking to solve bear conflicts in western Maryland, but simply to put bears in trophy hunters’ sights. Hunting bears for trophies or rugs will not provide money to farmers and will not provide the relief that citizens are demanding. Governor Ehrlich’s administration should look for constructive solutions and new funding partnerships, not trophy hunting opportunities.

And HSUS senior vice president Wayne Pacelle offered this bit of trivia,

There are fewer black bears in Maryland than there are pandas in China or endangered grizzly bears in Montana.

I’m not sure what the population of pandas in a country the size of China has to do with the population of bears in a state the size of Maryland, but such comparisons probably makes perfect sense to animal rights activists.


DNR, animal rights groups in bed. Gene Mueller, The Washington Times, April 21, 2004.

Maryland Rejects $75,000 Offer To Cancel Bear Hunt. Press Release, The Fund for Animals, April 14, 2004.

Letter to DNR Offering $75,000 for Solving Bear Problems. Letter, Michael Markarian, Fund for Animals, March 17, 2004.

DNR Accepts Funding From HSUS, Fund for Animals. Press Release, Maryland Department of Natural Resources, April 14, 2004.

Activists Disappointed by Oregon Trap-Checking Limit

In 2001, the Oregon legislature passed a law that, among other things, required that traps set for “nuisance animals” be checked “on a regular basis.” It was left to the state Fish and Wildlife Commission to determine what qualified as “a regular basis,” and it issued a decision on that in February that pleased farmers and trappers but disappointed animal rights activists.

State law already requires traps set for fur-bearing animals be checked every 48 hours. On a 4-2 vote, the Fish and Wildlife Commission ruled that traps for nuisance animals must be checked every 76 hours. In addition, if a trapping is done for “damage control” the traps only need to be checked every 7 days, and conibear traps need to be checked only ever 30 days.

In Defense of Animals’ Connie Durkee told The Oregonian that the Fish and Wildlife Commission was putting the interests of trappers ahead of the animals,

The message that the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife sends is that convenience for the trapper outweighs being humane. No wild animal should have to suffer needlessly.

Wayne Pacelle of the Humane Society for the United States said the trap-check limits were inhumane and would likely spur his and other groups to bring a ballot initiative to address “inhumane traps.” Pacelle told the Bend Bugle,

The Commission has abrogated its responsibility to provide the most elemental humane standards for trapping. Animals caught in inhumane traps will languish not for hours, but for days. The Commission has all but incited humane and wildlife protection organizations to renew their effort to pass a comprehensive ballot initiative to halt the use of inhumane traps in Oregon.

HSUS Oregon program coordinator Kelly Peterson noted that many states require traps to be checked every 24 hours and argued that Oregon should have brought its trap-check limit in line with other states. Peterson told the Bend Bugle,

Given that more than 30 states mandate 24-hour or daily trap check requirement, it is most disappointing that the state will allow animals to linger in traps for three to thirty days. The suffering the animals will endure is immense.

The 76-hour limit was favored by a majority of a citizen’s committee that looked at this issue in 2003. It was favored in order to accommodate federal Wildlife Service so that such individuals could set traps on Friday and not have to check them again until the following Monday.


Oregon panel sets 76-hour trap-checking limit. Mark Larabee, The Oregonian, February 7, 2004.

Humane Society dismayed by trap check rules. Bend.Com, February 6, 2004.

Trapping decision angers animal-rights activists. Mark Freeman, Mail Tribune (Jackson County, Oregon), February 7, 2004.

Judge Rules Against Louisiana Sheriff Who Declared Cockfighting Cruel

Although Louisiana is one of the last two states where cockfighting is legal, Caddo Parish Sheriff Steve Prator had nonetheless cited cockfighters since November 2003 under the parish’s animal cruelty law. In early February, however, state Judge Charles Scott ruled that Prator must cease enforcing the local animal cruelty statute where it is in conflict with the state statute, meaning the cockfights must be allowed to go on.

Scott said the case was not about whether or not cockfighting was barbaric, but rather whether local animal cruelty statutes could trump the state statute. In his decision, Scott wrote,

Some may call it barbaric. Some may call it sport. Others may call it business. Whatever your view, this case is about whether persons in Caddo Parish may rely on state law, which does not prohibit cockfighting, or whether they are subject to fine and/or jail under the parish ordinance.

When citizens of this state, and those visiting from outside this state, cannot rely on state law to govern their conduct but must instead be fearful of criminal penalties from a parish ordinance which is in conflict with state law, the residual police power of the state has been abridged by the conflicting ordinance and cannot stand.

Prator said that his office would immediately end its efforts to block a couple of local cockfighting arenas. Prator told the Shreveport Times,

We were just awaiting the judge to tell us which law to enforce, and so now we’ve got that and we’ll act accordingly. Our job is not to determine the morality of an activity, but to enforce any and all laws applicable to that activity. In this case the judge says we should not enforce the parish law and therefore we won’t. It doesn’t really ruffle my feathers.

Humane Society of the United States’ Wayne Pacelle had attended the hearing when the judge heard from both sides and said he was disappointed by the outcome. “We’re disappointed that the judge is going to allow this animal cruelty to continue in Caddo Parish,” Pacelle told the Shreveport Times. “It seems a clear matter of law that the parish can decide for itself to outlaw instigated fights between animals.”


Judge: Caddo sheriff can’t stop cockfights. Don Walker, Shreveport Times (Louisiana), February 4, 2004.

Judge’s ruling allows cockfighting in Caddo Parish. Associated Press, February 3, 2004.