BEAR BAITING

Hiding in a tree or behind a blind, hunters lie in wait. They are waiting for the bears to take the bait—usually a large pile of food or a 55-gallon drum stuffed with food. Bears can feed at this free trough for days before taking a bullet, while others, deemed unworthy of hanging in someone's trophy room, can dine for the entire bear-hunting season.

Having learned to find food where humans have been, they may become "problem bears" who wander into back yards and upend garbage cans looking for an easy meal.

Hunters claim that the fundamental principle of hunting is "fair chase," but there is nothing fair about bear baiting. In fact, there is not even a chase. An animal is lured to an area and shot while she is eating. The federal government bans the baiting of migratory birds because it's unfair. Most states ban the baiting of deer and elk and other big game for the same reason. There's no logical reason to allow such an unfair practice to persist in bear hunting.

The hunters typically take the head and hide as trophies and, in rare instances, even pack out the meat, which usually turns out to be less food than they had brought in with them.

The U.S. Forest Service, the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the National Park Service all publish materials telling the public not to feed bears. The Forest Service, for instance, puts out materials that warn "A fed bear is a dead bear," "Do Not Feed Bears!" and "Bears Are Dangerous!"

Bear baiting is banned in some states that allow bear hunting.

WHAT YOU CAN DO

Contact your state wildlife agency. If bear baiting is legal in your state, express your outrage to state officials and to your governor.

Write letters to the editor of newspapers in your state and contact the media to investigate.

Submit an Op-Ed to your local newspaper.

Attend state wildlife agency meetings and demand that steps be taken to prohibit bear baiting.

Contact your state legislators and ask them to introduce legislation to ban this practice.