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August 22, 2013

Fact Sheet on Bear Baiting

The Humane Society of the United States

bear ma and cub

iStockphoto

Hiding in a tree or behind a blind, hunters lie in wait. They are waiting for the bears to take the bait—usually a large pile of food or a 55-gallon drum stuffed with food like rotting pastries and pizza. Bears can feed at this free trough for days before taking a bullet, while others, deemed unworthy of hanging in someone's trophy room, can dine on this unnatural diet for the entire bear-hunting season.

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.

Unfair chase

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.

A fed bear is a dead bear

The U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the National Park Service, and most state wildlife agencies 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" and "Do Not Feed Bears!" Yet state agencies that allow baiting carve out special exemptions for hunters.

Tom Beck, a hunter and a bear biologist with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, opposes baiting.

"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 legal in only 12 states. The HSUS is part of a coalition known as Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting that is working to end bear baiting in Maine, along with bear trapping and hounding, by placing a citizen's initiative on the November 2014 ballot

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