Why Farmers Should NOT Kill Bears

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I really like bears, and I can remember every time (seven) that I’ve seen a black bear in the wild.  Bear.pngWith one exception, they were running at full speed, evidently afraid for their lives.    Who can blame them?  I’ve seen two killed on the side of the road, and now, even in my very liberal east coast state, they have legal bear hunting.  For the record, this “Save the Bears” blog isn’t about the legal hunting of bears.  I’ll leave that to others to debate.  Although, I will say that there really is no comparison between the populations of whitetail deer and black bears, and is anyone who is hunting for a bear “just trying to put meat on the table”?  I don’t think so.

Bears and people are colliding a lot more these days, and I’m not only talking about on the road.  Bears are being caught on camera in the downtown sections of cities.  If you don’t believe me, look at this video (HERE) from Frederick, Maryland.  Bears are notorious trash can destroyers and bird feeders are better than a drive-up at Dunkin Donuts.  But the city folk seem to take this in stride.  The issue is with farmers.

100% of the farmers I know are good people and some of the most environmentally conscious people on Earth.  These small farmers walk in nature all the time and appreciate its beauty and its bounty.  So if there is an argument on the topic, I’m usually on the side of the farmers, and by the way, No Farms = No Food (lest we forget).   But here’s the issue: bears damage crops, and not a little, and even though I have no firsthand knowledge, the word is whispered in far too many circles to not believe that many farmers shoot bears illegally and bury their bodies to hide the evidence.
               BEAR DAMAGE IN A FIELD
BearDamage1.png           Bear Damage Area Enlarged (below)BearDamage2.png

Now before you get all “high and mighty”, think about this:  the farmer sees a bear in his/her field.  They know that it will be in the area for days if not weeks and will demolish big areas of crops.   Farming is very low margin, and any way to avoid damage is very tempting.  This is their livelihood.  What would you do to someone tampering with your paycheck?  Then consider this, the farmer knows that “pleasure hunters” can get permits on a lottery and hunt for bears.  So why can’t they, on their own land, shoot and dispose of a crop destroyer? 

That’s surely the thinking, albeit wrong. 

We need to take care of our farmers.  But, we also need to take care of our environment.  This writer humbly suggests that our politicians should pass laws that make bear damage a good thing for farmers.  When damage is realized, DNR should come in, make the measurements described in this Bear Damage Calculator (CLICK HERE), and have the farmer compensated according to a generous estimate in the land damages and a generous estimate in the market value.
  
Like the bears running for their lives on the road, this is clearly an act of desperation on the part of the farmers.  We need to remove the economic reasons of this practice, and do just the opposite.  We should give farmers reasons to say “YES!!”, when they see a bear in their fields, and start shooting with a camera and not a gun.  If we do, shooting and burying bears on farms will become ancient history.

I sure do like bears.

For information on bears from Maryland's Department of Natural Resources, click here.