November 2, 2009
Fact Sheet on Bear Baiting
Having learned to find food where humans have been, they may become "problem bears" who wander into back yards and upend garbage cans looking for an easy meal.
Hunters claim that the fundamental principle of hunting is "fair chase," but there is nothing fair about bear baiting. In fact, there is not even a chase. An animal is lured to an area and shot while she is eating. The federal government bans the baiting of migratory birds because it's unfair. Most states ban the baiting of deer and elk and other big game for the same reason. There's no logical reason to allow such an unfair practice to persist in bear hunting.
The hunters typically take the head and hide as trophies and, in rare instances, even pack out the meat, which usually turns out to be less food than they had brought in with them.
The Ugly Face of Bear Baiting
If this practice continues, the public can expect more scenes like the one described by District Ranger Robert Reese of the Bridger-Teton National Forest in Wyoming in 1993:
"Forest personnel visited the [bait station] and found one-third of a horse stuffed in a barrel with the horse's head tied to a nearby tree. The barrel was located 10 feet from a [snow melt] drainage. It was located near White Pine Resort. The owners were worried about bears being attracted to the resort and clients seeing the horse body stuffed into a barrel. This wasn't an experience the owners wished clients to have... Site also included many horse skulls and bones from previous year's baiting that had never been cleaned up."
A Fed Bear is a Dead Bear
The U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service all publish materials telling the public not to feed bears. The Forest Service, for instance, puts out materials that warn "A fed bear is a dead bear," "Do Not Feed Bears!" and "Bears Are Dangerous!"
In a letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the director of the Pacific Northwest Region of the National Park Service stated his opposition to baiting on national forest lands abutting Crater Lake National Park.
The director wrote, "Biologically, there is no difference between a bait station and a dump. Bait stations habituate bears to human-generated food, contributing to the potential for conflicts between bears and people in the park."
Tom Beck, a hunter and a bear biologist with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, shares a similar opinion.
"I firmly believe that baiting creates 'nuisance' bears," he says. "Black bears are naturally wary, instinctively avoiding close contact with humans. But a large amount of tasty food, easily obtained, defeats this wariness. By baiting, we create lazy bears who have been rewarded, not punished, for overcoming their fear of humans."
Legal Status of Bear Baiting
Bear baiting is banned in 18 of the 28 states that allow bear hunting. And in four states, voters have recently banned bear baiting by ballot initiative. See Bear Baiting Laws and Legislation for more information.
Just before he left office in January 2003, former Minnesota Governor Jesse Ventura said that "going out there and putting jelly doughnuts down, and Yogi comes up and sits there and thinks he's found the mother lode for five days in a row—and then you back-shoot him from a tree?....That ain't sport. That's an assassination."
The Duluth News Tribune, the largest newspaper in northern Minnesota, where most baiting in the North Star State takes place, agreed with Ventura: "Normal people should be outraged at these practices...Bear hunters who set out sweets to attract your kill: Take a good hard look in the mirror. See if you can find a human being."
What You Can Do
- Contact your state wildlife agency [PDF]. If bear baiting is legal in your state, express your outrage to state officials and to your governor.
- Write letters to the editor of newspapers in your state and contact the media to investigate.
- Submit an Op-Ed to your local newspaper.
- Attend state wildlife agency [PDF] meetings and demand that steps be taken to prohibit bear baiting.
- Contact your state legislators and ask them to introduce legislation to ban this practice.