T.R. Michels

T.R. Michels is a professional guide who specializes in trophy whitetail, turkey and bear hunts in Minnesota. He has guided in the Rocky Mountains for elk and mule deer, too. He publishes the Trinity Mountain Outdoors website at www.TRMichels.com.

Do We Even Need Hunters?

Posted by: T.R. Michels under Recreation Updated: October 1, 2011 - 5:11 PM

Let's get Real

Unfortunately, many of the people who post on the internet, such as the Lily the Black Bear page on Facebook, even though the efforts of Dr. Rogers to portray the live so bears honestly, still have an anthropomorphic view of how wildlife, including bears really live and survive. This view by non-hunters may be due in part, to the internet presence of the bears that Dr. Rogers is researching. The people who watch those bears, on one hand, may have feared bears before watching them on the internet, but due to what they see, they may loose their fear of bears. Instead of now fearing bears, they often connect, emotionally, with the bears such as hope and Faith, and may only see the "love and care" that they often see between a sow and her cubs or between bear siblings.

The Harsh Realities

The truth of the matter is that, black bears can be violent, and ruthless. Fights may be particularly violent when they fighting are over feeding territory rights or breeding rights, such as the fight of these two large Alaskan brown bears,http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGwUpM9QryU, or these grizzly bears http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zNehtyJMK2A. Male bears often kill the cubs of female bears, so that she will come into estrus after her cub dies and be ready to breed. That is one of the harsh realities of black bear behavior.

What I am trying to with this post, is be absolutely honest about the facts of bears and their interaction between each other and with the habitats they live in. I am trying to point out that bears are big enough to be dangerous t humans, and that a bear’s life is not all "cuddly" and "lovey dovey". If you have that perception of bears, please look at the life of a bear with realistic eyes, and try to see the truth of the matter. .

 

Are Hunters Needed?

With that in mind, lets take a look at why hunters are so important to bear management in every state where they are found. In Minnesota, where there are between 20,000 and 30,000 black bears the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is charged with keeping the bear population in balance with two different sets of criteria. In the northern part of the state, which is made up of vast stretches of wilderness, interspersed with scattered pockets of humanity (in the form of farms and towns) - the DNR manages bears so that they are kept in balance with the "habitat carrying capacity", meaning how many bears can the habitat support per square mile. Because of the type of management, and the fact that this area may be able to withstand more bears than other areas, and because the humans that live there, are often more accustomed to bears in their area than the humans in the more southerly areas will tolerate - the DNR offers a limited number of bear hunting permits each year, base on the number of bears it believe each unit can hold.

In the more southerly regions of the state, where there may be mostly farms, towns and cities, populated with humanity, the DNR may have to manage the bear population to be kept in balance with the "social carrying capacity" of the habitat, meaning how many bears will the humans in that area put up with. In this area the DNR often offers an unlimited number of bear hunting permits, in an effort to keep the number of bears, not at or below what the habitat can hold, but instead, within the parameters of what the humans in each unit will put up with.

The Important Role of the Department of Natural Resources

To figure out how many bears can be harvested each year, or more correctly how many bears should be harvested each years, the DNR takes into account how many bears the habitat will hold, the annual increase in bear population due to births, the survival rate of young bears (the survival rate of black bear cubs runs around 80 percent each year), the annual loss due to bears being killed (because they are a nuisance to human beings or property), the number of bears that die each year due to natural causes, how many bears might be killed in vehicle collisions each year etc. Once they know the approximate number of bears in each hunting unit, and the loss of bears to all means except hunting, and the approximate annual recruiting rate due to births, they issue "x" number of permits, based on the number of bears they expect to be killed each year in relation to the number of bear hunting permits offered each year. They do this to keep the bear population within an approximate number of what either the habitat carrying capacity is, or what the social carrying capacity is.

Note: Half of the female bears in Minnesota die before they reach age 5, half of the males die by the time they are 3. Records for 2003 show that hunters in Minnesota killed 3,600 bears, that auto collisions killed 25 bears , and 20 bears were killed as nuisance bears.

If the DNR did not offer bear hunting permits, knowing that approximately 80% of all the bears that get killed each year are shot by hunters – the bear population could conceivably increase dramatically, causing habitat destruction in the northern areas (that are already stressed by wildfires, high winds and drought); and causing habitat destruction, farm animal depredation, and anxiety of humans in the more southerly regions. In other words, if bears were not hunted in Minnesota, they might seriously affect the habitat, and we might have a lot of scared or irate humans. To keep that from happening the DNR may issue up to 9,000 bear hunting permits each year, with approximately 3000 to 4000 bears harvested each year.

Hunters as Vital Game Mangement Tools

For those of you who want all bear hunting banned, please realize that the hunters of the state of Minnesota are doing the State a great service, because if they did not harvest as many bears as they did, there could be serious consequences to both the habitat, and to peoples gardens, houses and feelings of well being. No one wants to have hungry bears roaming around in their backyards. So, please realize that hunting is a greatly needed tool in wildlife management.

Let's Thank the Hunters

Instead of decrying hunting and hunters, Minnesota residents who do not hunt should be thanking our hunters. They are needed and do us a great service

 

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