On December 13, 2023

No one wants to see a bear in their kitchen

 

Dear Editor,

Down in Montpelier, groups are actively trying to persuade legislators to ban the use of dogs to hunt bears. They either don’t realize or don’t care, that their goal would make us all much less safe. Everybody loves to see bears. These amazing creatures are fun to watch in the wild. But no one wants to see a bear in their kitchen and that is what is at stake here.

A wheelchair bound New Hampshire woman was attacked in her own kitchen by a bear in search of food. The attack cost her an eye! While there are only a few of these types of incidents, each one of them was a terrifying ordeal involving older ladies and even a child in his own backyard.  Bears are large and potentially dangerous wild animals, and their main function in life is to find food and to create more bears.

Bears have a powerful sense of smell, which brings them into the smells that come from our kitchens, cookouts, backyards, parks, and campgrounds. They can be unpredictable when food is at stake. And they can easily become habituated to getting their food in these places where we don’t want them.

That’s where hunters come in. The barking and baying of the hounds is like a siren to the bears, teaching them that being close to people is not where food is easy to find.  Bears that are pursued by hunters with hounds become conditioned to flee the presence of people, and that is exactly what diminishes the potential for dangerous encounters.

A prohibition on hunting bears with dogs will remove this deterrent, and put people, most likely children and the elderly, more at risk, not to mention our pets and farm animals. Only a few people in Vermont hunt bears with dogs. And only a few people in Vermont oppose allowing them to do so. The rest of the people benefit from the deterrent that hunters create that helps keep our bears wild and less likely to wander where they don’t belong.

I’ve been working with and enjoying dogs my entire life.  When I was 12 years old, I started running hounds with older houndsmen who inspired my interest and taught me not only about hounds but to respect the forests and everything in it.  It was those experiences which made it possible for me to obtaining a BS degree in Animal Science from the University of Georgia and to be posted to the U.S. Army Combat Tracker Dog School.  I’ve spent thousands of hours behind the dogs in the woods here in Vermont and all over New England. I am also a Registered Maine Guide who understands wildlife behavior. 

Together my life experiences have taught me the responsibility of taking care of and maintaining a well-trained pack of hounds, and the importance of keeping our wildlife wild.

In our society we have choices, we’re so prosperous as a nation, most of us don’t have to hunt for food. We can go to the grocery store or restaurants for our meals. But some of us choose to practice time honored traditions like hunting and fishing. We spend our spare time outdoors, where we pass on our respect for the land and wildlife to our own kids just as we learned when we were young. Our lifestyle teaches responsibility. The records show just how safe hunters are in the woods, and our dollars provide the lion’s share of funding for wildlife management and habitat in Vermont.

A small subset of sportsmen and women love to hunt with dogs. Raising them and training them are enormous parts of our lives, and we invest thousands of hours and dollars into our beloved hunting companions. Investments such as GPS collars that help us keep hunting dogs where they belong.

Along the way, hunting bears using dogs helps keep all Vermonters safe, even those who don’t appreciate that fact. We don’t all have to agree with each other, and we don’t all have to do the same things, but we do need to learn to tolerate our differences. Allowing sportsmen and women to hunt bears with dogs provides public safety that is worth it for all of us.  

 Jim Harris,  Fairlee 

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