By Rance Shaw
The Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife (ODFW) Commission has proposed an additional bear hunt in the Southwest Region. The “Siskiyou Plus Bear Hunt” would make available 250 black bear tags in addition to the 4,400 normally issued for this region during the spring hunting season, which runs from April 1 – May 31.
According to ODFW’s 2012 Black Bear Management Plan, the Southwest Region of Oregon contains much of the state’s “good habitat” for black bears, and the area has the highest density of black bears. Oregon’s black bear population is estimated to be 25,000 – 30,000. The population may be steady or even increasing.
Spring bear hunts already pose a great threat to bears when they are most vulnerable. At this time, bears are emerging from winter hibernation. Black bears do not emerge from their dens at all during hibernation—not even for food and water. After this long period of inactivity, the bears remain lethargic for a couple weeks while they replenish nutrients.
Hunters may not kill sows with cubs less than one year old or cubs less than one year old. However, the proposed “Siskiyou Plus Bear Hunt” would certainly increase the likelihood of accidental takings of those sows and cubs. “Objective 1” of ODFW’s 2012 Black Bear Management Plan is to “[m]aintain healthy and optimum bear populations.” If that is truly ODFW’s first objective, why would they propose a plan to increase the number of hunters in the Southwest Region at a time of year when mothers and cubs are already greatly imperiled?
Black bears cubs remain with their mothers until they are 17 months old. Cubs over one year of age may survive if orphaned, but they will be extremely susceptible to death from starvation or exposure to the elements.
If orphaned cubs are found, ODFW handles them in one of six ways. Euthanasia and zoo placement are among those options, as well as simply leaving the cubs where they are found. However, none of the six options are satisfactory substitutes for the care that a mother bear provides for a young cub. For ethical reasons, no additional mothers and cubs should be subjected to possible orphaning for the sake of recreational hunting.
Please submit the letter to Governor Kitzhaber and ODFW Commissioners we have prepared (or personalize it) asking them not to allow the “Siskiyou Plus Bear Hunt.”