What is bear hounding?

Hounding involves hunters and guides using packs of radio-collared hounds to pursue bears until the exhausted, frightened animals seek refuge in a tree (where they are shot) or turn to fight the hounds. Hounding results in injuries or death to both bears and dogs and leaves bear cubs vulnerable to mauling, orphaning and death.

Most people feel that hounding is unethical and not “fair chase” hunting as it gives too much advantage to the hunter.

Hounding is inhumane for bears and dogs

Hounding orphans cubs; those under a year old will likely die from slow starvation and predation. Hunters frequently fail to check for the presence of dependent young in a nearby tree, which could alert them that they are pursuing a mother bear. Biologists have also found that hunters misidentify the gender of approximately one-third of treed bears. And in some pursuits, hounds confront bears while they are on the ground; in the melee, hunters may not take the time to try to determine the bear’s gender before shooting.

Especially during hot weather, pursuit stresses both hounds and bears. Bears who have been chased for a prolonged period can experience severe physical stress due to their thick fur and fat layer, which they build to survive during hibernation. Overheated bears can die and pregnant bears can lose embryos.

Altercations with hounds can result in injuries or death to bears, particularly cubs. In turn, hounds mauled by bears can suffer broken bones, punctured lungs or other serious injuries. Hounds may chase bears into roadways, where oncoming vehicles could strike either animal. Hounds are frequently dumped at municipal animal shelters or left in the woods if they do not perform adequately.

Because hounds track bears across large spaces, they invariably pursue and stress non-target animals including deer, moose, small mammals and birds.

Hounding disrupts bears and their populations

Bears eat nearly all their nutrients for the entire year in the summer and fall. In many regions of the U.S., black bears feed intensively for three to four months just before they go into hibernation. This frenzied feeding period (called hyperphagia) coincides with most states’ bear-hunting seasons.

In poor food years, hounding makes bears expend energy that they need in order to survive hibernation. Hounds disrupt feeding regimes for both the bears who are chased and nearby bears who are not. Bears must shift their sleeping patterns and become more nocturnal to avoid being hunted.

Hunting black bears also changes their social organization. Hunters and guides typically target larger bears for trophies. When a territorial male is killed, subordinates take their place. The new male will often kill the cubs sired by the original one.

Hounding is unsporting and lacks fair chase

Surveys demonstrate an overwhelming lack of public support for bear hounding. It is considered unsporting—even among many sportsmen—because it is not “fair chase,” the cornerstone of ethical hunting.

Several wildlife managers suggest the public will tolerate bear hunting only if “credible” management programs are in place. This includes setting appropriate seasons, restricting licenses and number of bears killed and limiting methods of pursuing an animal, such as hounding.