Inuit hunters challenge sex ratio rule for polar bear harvesting


Arviat HTO chairperson Thomas Alikasua says polar bears are digging up gravesites in his community. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)

Arviat HTO chairperson Thomas Alikasua says polar bears are digging up gravesites in his community. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)

“What’s more valuable, a cabin, a snowmobile, or a human life?” Kivalliq Wildlife Board Vice-Chair Richard Aksawnee asks during polar bear management hearings in Iqaluit on Thursday, Nov. 15. The KWB wants public safety to be a priority in polar bear management, following the death of a man in Arviat and one in Naujaat this summer. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)

“What’s more valuable, a cabin, a snowmobile, or a human life?” Kivalliq Wildlife Board Vice-Chair Richard Aksawnee asks during polar bear management hearings in Iqaluit on Thursday, Nov. 15. The KWB wants public safety to be a priority in polar bear management, following the death of a man in Arviat and one in Naujaat this summer. (PHOTO BY BETH BROWN)

Inuit hunters should not be penalized for killing more female polar bears than allowed under Nunavut’s current harvesting system, the Kivalliq Wildlife Board says.

The board wants to see a five-year ban on penalties that are currently applied when Inuit hunters exceed a ratio of two males for every one female.

That’s according to a written submission sent on Oct. 12 to the Nunavut Wildlife Management Board, giving feedback on the Government of Nunavut’s latest draft plan for polar bear management.

If approved by the NWMB, the new plan would replace an existing polar bear management strategy in Nunavut that predates the territory.

KWB vice chair Richard Aksawnee of Baker Lake presented that submission on Thursday, Nov. 15, the third day of a four-day hearing attended by wildlife delegates from each community in Nunavut.

In giving his submission, Aksawnee asked Nunavut Tunngavik Inc. for advice on how Nunavut hunters and trappers organizations could take legal action under the Nunavut Agreement when Inuit hunting rights are violated.

“It is the HTOs’ mandate to represent the interests of Inuit hunters and their hunting rights,” Aksawnee said. “It is extremely important that Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit be more integrated.”

The KWB is suggesting that after five years without penalties, the GN could then do a conservation review to see how male and female populations are affected.

“After five years, a harvesting analysis and population survey can be done to determine what ratio of males and females were actually caught during the time period and evaluate the impact on the overall [Western Hudson Bay Polar Bear] population to determine whether severe penalizations for overharvesting females need to be reinstated,” reads the KWB submission.

If eliminating penalties on the male-female sex ratio for harvested polar bears cannot be agreed to, then the KWB says it is open to talking about other ideas—as long as those options focus on Inuit knowledge and prioritize public safety.

The hearing comes following two polar bear-related deaths in the Kivalliq region this summer, one in Arviat and one in Naujaat.

“These tragic events led to public outcries about the dangers presented by polar bears and have tested community members’ limits with how polar bear management currently is practiced,” the KWB wrote.

Given this, the KWB is also asking for a more robust polar bear-deterrent program and for conservation officers in every community.

Aksawnee echoed the concerns of other delegates who said the government isn’t treating polar bear management as a life or death scenario.

“We at the KWB, we cannot understand why the government is willing to compensate for property damage, and not a human life,” Aksawnee said. “What’s more valuable, a cabin, a snowmobile, or a human life?”

The GN currently has a program where residents can apply for funding when property is damaged by wildlife. The Workers Safety and Compensation Board does compensate active harvesters injured while hunting, and families of harvesters fatally injured in their work, a GN lawyer said.

The NWMB suggested that a full information package about this program be circulated to community HTOs in Nunavut.

There are 38 polar bear tags for the Kivalliq region now, after Nunavut’s Minister of Environment added four tags to the Western Hudson Bay subpopulation quota this summer.

The Arviat HTO is asking that tags be increased again under the current management system—where defence kills count as one tag, and a female killed outside the allowable sex ratio could count as two tags.

“The polar bears are digging up graves. This is too much,” Arviat HTO chairperson Thomas Alikasua said.

Wildlife monitors in the community see polar bears every day, he added.

As a former Arviat resident, NWMB chairperson, a former Nunavut MLA and cabinet minister, Dan Shewchuk said, “It’s scary to live in that community right now.”

A wildlife specialist for the Qikiqtaaluk Wildlife Board said on Nov. 14 that Inuit hunters are seeing more unhealthy male bears in Nunavut. Those hunters suggest the male population is over-hunted because of the sex ratio, potentially making polar bears more aggressive without the competition and guidance of older more experienced male bears.

Submissions to the NWMB by federal groups and environmental organizations said the GN’s proposed plan for bear management overlooks the impact climate change has on polar bear populations.

“We’re not out to slaughter bears,” said the KWB’s Brian Sigurdson, who is also chair of the Rankin Inlet HTO.

But increased quotas now would mean quota reductions later, said Drikus Gissing, director of wildlife management for the Department of Environment.

“My experience in Nunavut is people don’t like decreasing quotas,” he said.

Wildlife officials in Nunavut are now investigating the illegal killing of four bears near Arviat that followed the summer death of Aaron Gibbons.

As Kivalliq communities share polar bear populations with Manitoba, the KWB is also monitoring a growing northern tourism industry around Churchill that could make polar bears more used to being around humans.

“In Nunavut polar bears are hunted by Inuit. In Manitoba, they are a tourist attraction,” Aksawnee said.

Losing my lust for hunting, thanks to The Bear

Recently, I watched a rather delightful film called The Bear. I’d not heard of it before until a friend told me how it was a childhood favourite of his. (His film taste is usually worth listening to.) Directed by Jean-Jacques Annaud of Seven Years in Tibet and The Name of the Rose fame, The Bear isn’t like most other animal-themed films. It’s far more nuanced than it first appears to be. A live action tale (with a mixture of animatronic bears and real ones), it follows the story of an orphaned bear cub in late 19th century British Columbia, as he tries to survive, pitting himself against nature and some rather determined hunters.

It’s utterly charming and makes me smile just thinking about it, but it’s also quite nasty in places. Hunting dogs are used (and yes, a dog versus a bear doesn’t go brilliantly), bearskins are everywhere, and you even see two bears have sex in the distance. That kind of stuff never happened in The Lion King. You see hunters torment animals and, just when you think the human threat is gone, a cougar comes along to remind you that nature itself can be very cruel too. However, it’s beautifully shot and the bear cub is adorable, if clearly soon to be quite a threatening beast once he grows up. The film uses very little dialogue and hardly any music. Yet you hardly notice any of that because the film is so elegantly put together. The exposition is there for you to see rather than hear.

What has this got to do with games? Well, the day after I watched The Bear, I went to load up Red Dead Redemption 2 for a bit, and soon felt rather terrible. I needed to go hunting – to shoot at a bear or two and skin them. Suddenly it felt a little bit too real, as daft as that may sound. Sure, I’ve killed what must be hundreds of thousands of ‘people’ in games by now but the more I think about it, the more I’ve realised I feel quite uncomfortable about killing an animal in a game. Which is utterly irrational, I know.


Many quests and locations in Assassin’s Creed Odyssey involve killing animals. Wandering into their caves and killing them while they sleep for the sake of a pelt and a few extra experience points. How would I feel about that post-The Bear? I remember feeling terrible a few days back when I was playing World of Warcraft. I was in the woodland-ish zone of Darkshore and had to kill bears for some pelts. Just as I’d downed one adult bear, a small bear cub came bounding over and stood next to his deceased mother looking a bit lost. Thoughts of The Bear and his little face as he was orphaned come flooding back, and I don’t care how much of a snowflake it makes me sound.

It’s a weird idea that I’m fine killing virtual people but not animals, so I thought I’d search around to figure out why I and other people are like this. Looks like it’s a mixture of two things. Supposedly, there’s a concept known as ‘collapse of compassion’. Essentially, this means that the more deaths that occur in one incident, the less we seem to care. You’ll notice this happening in the news a lot (albeit not exclusively). One person dies in a freak car accident? Ohh, the horrors as we learn all about where they were driving to and how much family they had. 30 people die in a landslide? It’s too much, somehow, to get your head around in quite the same way. Names and details matter a lot in this, which I guess is why naming animals generally has an effect on our affection for them.


There’s also the matter that we innately think of animals as innocent or helpless. This isn’t actually always the case. A 9 foot tall Kodiak bear like Bart who features in The Bear is far from helpless when faced against scrawny little me, but it would be different if I had a large rifle and knew how to use it. He is pretty innocent though, merely trying to go about his business. That business in The Bear happens to be helping a bear cub get around in the world, with an occasional pitstop to woo a female bear by tearing a sapling out of the ground to impress her. Who could begrudge him such pleasures? Well, hunters.

Realising I’d lost my fairly limited bloodlust for hunting in games, I thought a nice gentle game of Never Alone might be better for me. Just me – a little Iñupiaq girl – and her arctic fox companion as we traipse through the Alaskan landscape together. No suffering or killing. Oh, except for when I screw up and my fox friend falls to his death. Or I flee from a polar bear and the bear falls into icy water to his inevitable demise. On second thoughts, maybe I just need to stick with match-three games and FIFA.

Missing Toddler Found Alive Says He Was ‘With A Bear For Two Days’

Searchers found Casey Hathaway on Thursday, two days after he vanished from his grandmother’s yard in North Carolina.

A 3-year-old boy who was found alive after having been missing for days told family members that he was busy spending time with a bear.

Casey Hathaway was playing with other children on Tuesday when he vanished from his grandmother’s yard in a rural part of eastern North Carolina. He was found alive two days later from where he disappeared after community search crews received a tip.

Casey’s aunt, Breanna Hathaway, posted Friday on Facebook that her nephew was home, healthy and smiling ― and had quite the tale to relate about his experience.

“He said he hung out with a bear for two days,” Hathaway said.

She was willing to roll with the story, saying, “God sent him a friend to keep him safe. … Miracles do happen.”

In another post, Hathaway said Casey likes to watch “Masha and the Bear,” a show about a girl who lives in the woods with a paternal bear who keeps her safe.

Craven County Sheriff Chip Hughes said at a news conference Thursday that search crews found Casey wet, cold and tangled in vines, but not seriously injured.

The boy “didn’t really get into… how he was able to survive,” though he did mention “having a friend in the woods who was a bear,” the sheriff added, without commenting further on that scenario.

There were no signs of abduction, Hughes said.

“He’s up and talking,” Casey’s mother, Brittany Hathaway, said at the news conference after thanking search crews. “He’s already asked to watch Netflix, so he’s good, he’s good.”

The family is planning to set up a post office box to handle the huge wave of support, including from people who Hathaway said want to send stuffed teddy bears.

Breanna Hathaway posted on Facebook that the family appreciates the bear gifts, while advising those sending them to “remember that he can only [take] home so many.”

Felix defies the odds; on road to recovery

Jim Moodie The Sudbury Star
An injured cub found on the railway tracks north of Sudbury is now being cared for at the Bear With Us sanctuary in Muskoka. He was initially treated at Wild At Heart in Lively. JIM MOODIE/SUDBURY STAR

Felix Beartholomew is back on his feet.

The resilient cub, who got that impressive name from his rescuers, is now on the mend at a Muskoka bear sanctuary after being struck by a train north of Sudbury last month.

Found concussed and bleeding on the tracks by rail workers, the bear was initially treated for his injuries at Wild At Heart in Sudbury.

Larry Burkholder of Capreol said he and his partner Joe Nadeau, of Garson, were in a high-rail truck performing maintenance duties on Dec. 9 when they spied the animal.

“We came around the curve and saw something between the rails,” he said. “We stopped about 40 feet away and got out and walked up on it, and there were little balls of snow on it, like marshmallows, so it had been lying there for some time with trains passing right over top.”

The cub wasn’t moving and neither man would have been surprised to find it deceased — not too many animals survive a collision with a train, let alone an extended period of time stuck between the rails — but this was one tough little bear.

As they got closer, “it blinked at us,” said Burkholder. “We looked at each other and it was just, you know, our hearts went out to the poor thing. We had to try to do something.”

The cub had a skull fracture and couldn’t use its legs, so the two scooped him up in a jacket — Burkholder said he weighed less than 20 pounds — and placed him in the back of the truck, although it wasn’t long before he was riding in the cab.

“We drove about four miles with him in the box, but there was no movement from the animal so we brought it inside,” Burkholder said. “We made him a spot on the floor of the backseat with my co-worker’s parka and he was compliant the whole way back.”

They had collected the bear near Felix, a train stop about 200 kilometres north of Sudbury. That provided a good name — or half of a good name, anyway — for the animal, but it was a long haul to get him to Wild At Heart.

The co-workers had to pull aside to let trains pass and then transfer the bear to another truck. In all, the trip took about five hours. En route they called Wild at Heart and kept up a kind of conversation with their passenger.

“We made some noises and he would groan back a little,” said Burkholder. “But he had a severe concussion. As we got closer to Lively he wasn’t making much of a sound, and you could tell his breathing was getting shallower.”

Luckily veterinarian and Wild at Heart director Rod Jouppi was there to help right away, stitching up the bear’s head wound and providing antibiotics and painkillers.

About a week later he had improved enough to be transferred to Bear With Us, a facility near Huntsville that specializes in rehabbing orphaned and injured bears.

Mike McIntosh of Bear With Us said Tuesday the cub has made significant strides.

“He’s coming along quite well and I think he’s going to be fine,” he said. “He’s still a bit disoriented but his motor skills have improved a lot.”

The cub was “very underweight” when he arrived, said McIntosh, but is packing on some pounds now, thanks to a steady diet of raw eggs, yogurt and blueberries.

“It will be a month before he hibernates because he still has to put on weight,” he said. “Once he’s fat enough, he’ll be comfortable, curled up in a mound of straw, but right now he’s still looking for food all the time.”

He doesn’t have to look far for friendship, however, as McIntosh recently installed another cub in the same space with Felix Beartholomew.

“I integrated him a week or so ago with another cub I got from Blind River on Christmas Eve,” he said. “The day after I put them together, they were cuddling up.”

McIntosh said he’s had other bears with head injuries that took longer to recover, so he’s quite optimistic about this one’s chance of leading a normal life and making a return to the wild.

“The credit goes to those two rail employees,” he said. “If they had assumed he was dead, he would be dead. It’s amazing he survived with those trains going over, straddling him — if anything was hanging down, he would be whacked. He’s a lucky cub in more ways than one.”

Burkholder said he’s just glad he and Nadeau were able to act before it was too late.

“If the ravens had got on it, the eyes would be gone and it would have been a different story,” he said. “So we were lucky there.”

Starvation would have kicked in, too, if a train hurtling over its head hadn’t struck sooner.

“That’s what really gets me,” he said. “Some trains are 10,000 feet long, and with this poor thing inches away, who knows how close it was to being finished off. But luck was with it.”

Burkholder said he and Nadeau named the bear because it was such a unique experience, and they were moved by its ability to hang on and beat the odds.

They are still following his progress, too, through updates from Wild At Heart and Bear With Us.

“Sometimes you don’t have to be with something very long to get a bond,” he said.

The Man Who Befriended Bears


Charlie Russell loved to fly, and he seldom phoned first those times when he would fly his Kolb ultralight airplane north from Hawk’s Nest ranch on the boundary of Waterton Lakes National Park, to our “ranchette” near the Crowsnest Pass. We would hear the thrum of the plane’s Rotax motor bouncing off the nearby Livingstone Range, then the tiny white two-seater, looking like a giant lawn dart, grew suddenly loud as he buzzed the place, wagging his wings close enough for us to see his snaggle-toothed grin. Our horses would tear down the field, eyes rolling from his low approach. He would circle over the road, then sail in under the Fortis power line, set the plane down on the gravel and taxi up to our cattle guard. Then he’d get out, grab a length of rope from the cockpit and tie off the plane to a fence post with a cowboy slip knot so the wind couldn’t blow it over. He had long promised to take my wife Myrna for a ride, and one day she called him on it. “Well, I guess today’s the day then,” he grinned. I didn’t like the look of the clouds over Centre Peak, but Myrna’s face said, “You don’t get a vote.”

“Just tell me that you don’t have a halibut jig tied to the tail wheel this time.”

“What’s he talking about?” Myrna demanded.

“Ha!” laughed Charlie. “He’ll tell you later.”

Charlie Russell died on May 7 in Calgary due to complications following a five-hour surgical procedure. Charlie used up his nine lives long ago, but his death at 76 was still shocking to those who knew him well. Few people have lived as intensely as this man, or as dangerously. He has flown in some of the worst conditions on earth and walked or crawled (with a broken back one time) away from both a hang-glider and an ultra-light crash, and over time he prevailed in a number of forced landings. He is, he was, internationally famous for the ground-breaking work he and the artist Maureen Enns did at Kambalnoye Lake, Kamchatka, in Russia, living in close proximity with brown bears and raising orphaned cubs which not only survived the wilds but eventually reproduced. A mentor to many naturalists, his experiments in “exploring the possibilities of trust” challenged the prevalent orthodoxy of his day, which held that bears that have no fear of humans are always extremely dangerous, and that all bears are unpredictable and therefore always a threat to humans. Yet he was wise enough to know that what he learned working with those wild bears in BC and Kamchatka, in true wilderness settings, should not be applied by the layman to human-influenced bears in our southern national parks.

Charlie was raised in bear country and learned all the skills of mountain bush craft and horsemanship guiding hunters on his father’s pack-train. In 1960 Charlie and his brother Dick roughed it through Canada and Alaska to help Andy Russell make his groundbreaking film Grizzly Country. After studying photography in New York, and a stint living in New Zealand with his first wife, Margaret, Charlie took up ranching at Hawk’s Nest, his family home. But his heart wasn’t in it and he spent a lot of his time working on conservation projects, such as the Waterton Biosphere Reserve initiative. Many bears were dying at the hands of ranchers and hunters in southwest Alberta at that time. This bear of a man, Russell, was angered by the carnage, for as he often growled, “Anything that hurts the bears, hurts me.” He became the first Canadian rancher to deliberately move cattle carcasses to safe places on his ranch near the park boundary, so that bears could feed on them without being shot.

Eventually Charlie gave up on ranching, and in the 1990s he took a job guiding tourists on grizzly-bear-watching tours in the Khutzeymateen inlet of BC. Charlie’s superb talent at reading ursine body language, and his sensitive, ego-free approach to all wildlife, allowed for close encounters of the ursine kind. Myrna and I are two of the many people that have sat with him on a big driftwood log at the water’s edge as a female grizzly grazed on sedges at our feet, unafraid of us, and offering no threat to us. As a former park warden, I helped to capture many bears, but I never felt as reassured around them as I felt in Charlie’s company. His skill as a bear guide led to an offer in 1991 to work with filmmakers Jeff and Sue Turner of Princeton, BC. With Charlie’s help, they shot a famous BBC documentary on the Kermode “Spirit Bears” of Princess Royal Island. Charlie worked on documentaries, wrote books, collaborated with conservation groups and biologists and helped shape public opinion to push for a grizzly sanctuary in both the Khutzeymateen and Kamchatka and a protected area for Kermode bears on Princess Royal Island.

In 1993 the Turners’ plan called for Charlie to provide and pilot an ultralight plane, capable of water landings, to be used as an aerial camera platform. Charlie and his late son Anthony Russell began building the plane at Hawk’s Nest—all over Hawk’s Nest, since he didn’t have a big enough barn for the project. Every building on the place had a piece of the plane in it and Charlie was getting increasingly frantic to get the thing riveted together as a deadline for departure for the island loomed. On a snowy March day, I joined filmmaker Jeff Turner to help Charlie with some last-minute detailing. We worked all day; darkness found us riveting the cockpit canopy carefully onto thin steel tubing. I suddenly stubbed my toe on a snow-covered object. “Shit! What’s this thing, Charlie?” Charlie peered down at it for a second, distracted, bent down and swept the snow off it with his boot. “It’s just the in-flight computer.”

“Oh, is that all it is? Wow. I thought I had stepped on something important.”

I worried about that computer later that spring, when Canadian Geographiccommissioned me to write a feature article on the Kermode bears with Charlie to supply the photos. As a result I spent about four weeks that summer and fall on the island, hosted by the Turners at their camp. One did not just swan around taking notes with the hard-working Turners, and I soon found myself humping camera gear through the rainforest with Charlie. The white bears were living up to their reputation as ghosts of the rainforest, staying out of sight and waiting for the coho to run. Charlie had already befriended both black and white bears he encountered in the bush, and could identify individuals by size, shape and colouration. One day, we were sitting on a log taking a break while a black bear fished in a desultory manner nearby. The rains, and the main run of salmon that rain would trigger, had not yet begun. Charlie grinned at me, ran his fingers through his thick black hair, then leaned over in a bear-like manner and stirred the water with a calloused paw, peering  intently into the stream. The black bear splashed over and took up a position next to him almost touching his shoulder. I froze, too startled to get my little Balda camera out of my pack. The bear peered intently into the water, and then, realizing there was no fish in sight, backed away slowly, giving Charlie a sidelong glance. His body language said, “Dude—that is not funny.”

We were working one day in a creekbed, picking our way among slimy boulders and fish guts, stringing up a thousand feet of climbing rope between fir trees for an overhead camera sequence. Charlie pointed out a giant flat topped boulder in midstream. “I was playing with a bear on that rock one day, and things got out of hand.”


“Yeah. I was up there taking a break, and he came down the bank, spotted me, and came up to visit.”

“To visit?”

“Yeah. I’ve come to know him pretty well. I could tell he was feeling playful. He was really inviting me to wrestle. I wasn’t sure if I should, but he was so friendly. Anyway, he stood up. He had a really mischievous gleam in his eye, and I thought what the heck. So I got ready to grapple with him. God, they are so strong! He just knocked me right over. I landed on those boulders.”

“Jesus Christ!”

“Yeah. I could tell he was surprised. I looked up, and he was peering down at me. I think it really puzzled him, how weak humans are. He didn’t mean to hurt me. I was really banged up for a while there.”

“Jesus H. Christ on a crutch. You were playing King-of-the-Castle with a bear?”

“Yeah. I think I went a bit too far that time,” he added, sheepishly.

Those who know Charlie’s books might say he should have known better. He had wrestled with a bear before, in Waterton Park in the ’80s when he and his son, Anthony, then age 11, wandered in between a black bear sow and her cubs. The little sow attacked, and Charlie and Anthony were soon in a tag team bout with her. She knocked Anthony down and Charlie went after her with fists and boots. When she got on top of Charlie, Anthony, armed with a piece of elk antler he had found earlier, whacked her over the head. She then bit Anthony on the behind, and Charlie again attacked until the sow finally retreated. The sow was fine, and the humans escaped with bruises and puncture wounds, but Charlie always said that Anthony had saved his life that day.

As a former park warden I helped capture many bears, but I never felt as reassured around them as I felt in Charlie’s company.

But about that halibut jig. We were sitting in the cook tent over coffee one morning with Sue, Jeff and their daughter Chelsea, when Charlie popped the question I had been dreading. “Will you fly with me?”

Charlie knew I hated flying. I nearly choked on the coffee, set the cup down. “I’d be happy to,” I lied.

The two us, both heavyweights, climbed into the little plane and strapped in, while Jeff Turner pushed us away from the pier. We had a windscreen in front of us, but were otherwise open to the weather. The motor sits behind the passengers on this craft. There was no intercom, so once the motor started conversation was by sign language. We taxied down the inlet and I could see why it was going to be hard to keep this plane aloft just by force of my willpower alone, since there were no armrests to grip in white-knuckled fear while will-powering. Charlie punched me in the shoulder, a big grin on his face, and opened the throttle as we raced down the inlet. This is a short takeoff plane, but our run seemed to go on forever, and we did not lift off the water. Frowning, he slowed down and we taxied back to try it again. I can’t recall how many times we attempted take-off; it seemed like 10 but was probably only three. At last we returned to the pier, the motor idling. “Well, I guess it’s just not in the cards today,” I said, happily.

“No problem,” said Charlie. “I know what we need. Just stay in the plane while I get it.”

He hurried up the beach to camp, and soon returned with his fishing tackle box in one paw. As I watched, puzzled, he pulled out a lead halibut jig with its attached hook, and tied it to the tail-wheel with some fishing line. “We’ve got it now,” he said with a happy grin as he settled back behind the controls.

“We’ve got it? Are we trolling for halibut now?” I asked, mystified.

“Ha! We’re going to catch some air.”

Once more we hurtled down the inlet, two porkers making the ultralight nose heavy. But this time, the halibut jig was just enough tail weight (at 17.6 ounces) to pull the tail down allowing the wings to catch some lift. And we flew around and around up above Princess Royal Island and Laredo Inlet looking for white Kermodes, and scared the hell out of some tourists in a yacht in an 80-mph swoop. And except one time when I took a ride in a sailplane, I felt about as close to being an eagle, and like an eagle, oblivious to fear, as I have ever been.

In Kamchatka Charlie learned how to find a hole in the fog and spiral his plane up into the clear sky. He made many personal sacrifices in choosing to devote his life to finding a way through the foggy notions people have about bears and our relationship to nature. The best way to honour Charlie is to make some new holes in the fog of misunderstanding that keeps people from living at peace with nature, and therefore with ourselves.

This article was originally published in The Tyee, June 1, 2018. Sid Marty is a writer and long-time resident of southern Alberta. He has published five books of non-fiction and three of poetry. His Leaning on the Wind: Under the Spell of the Great Chinook andThe Black Grizzly of Whiskey Creek were finalists for Governor General’s Awards.

Pt. 2:

End the Nevada bear trophy hunt!

CompassionWorks International

DEC 26, 2018 —

The battle for Nevada’s bears continues!

On January 12th, 2019 from 11am to 1pm, we will gather at the Reno Convention Center to protest the killing of animals by trophy hunters. This year, Safari Club International, an evil group of trophy hunters, will hold their annual convention in Reno, and we will greet them with our protest. To get involved, please click this link.

During the convention, and for two months afterward, we will post a billboard in Reno with an image of a black bear and the words “Not Your Trophy”. The billboard will be installed on January 7th.

We would like to continue with a third month of the billboard and to move it to the Carson City area to remind Nevada legislators, who will then be in session, that the majority of Nevadans oppose trophy hunting and the senseless killing of our local wildlife. We have most of the money we need for the third month; however we are short approximately $450. Click this link to contribute toward the billboard. (Please note “bear billboard” in a comment on your donation.)

With changes in the Nevada government, and increased interest

Trump administration appeals ruling that blocked grizzly bear hunts around Yellowstone

When the ruling came down in October, Wyoming and Idaho were on the cusp of hosting the first, public grizzly bear hunts in the Lower 48 U.S. states since 1991.
Image: Grizzly bear

A grizzly bear cub searches for fallen fruit beneath an apple tree a few miles from the north entrance to Yellowstone National Park in Gardiner, Montana on Sept. 25, 2013.Alan Rogers / The Casper Star-Tribune via AP

By Associated Press

BILLINGS, Mont. — U.S. government attorneys filed notice Friday that they are appealing a court ruling that blocked the first public hunts of grizzly bears in the Northern Rockies in decades.

The appeal challenges a judge’s ruling that restored threatened species protections for more than 700 bears in and around Yellowstone National Park.

Protections for the animals had been removed in 2017. When the ruling from U.S. District Judge Dana Christensen came down in October, Wyoming and Idaho were on the cusp of hosting their first public hunts for grizzly bears in the Lower 48 U.S. states since 1991.

Federal biologists contend Yellowstone-area grizzlies have made a full recovery after a decades-long restoration effort. They want to turn over management of the animals to state wildlife agencies that say hunting is one way to better address rising numbers of bear attacks on livestock.

But wildlife advocates and the Crow Indian Tribe successfully sued to stop the hunts. Their attorneys persuaded Christensen that despite the recovery of bears in Yellowstone, the species remains in peril elsewhere because of continued threats from climate change and habitat loss.

The Yellowstone population has rebounded from just 136 animals when they were granted federal protections in 1975.

Grizzlies in recent years have returned to many areas where they were absent for decades. That has meant more dangerous run-ins with people, such as a Wyoming hunting guide who was killed this fall in a grizzly attack.

Christensen’s ruling marked the second time the government has sought to lift protections for Yellowstone bears only to be reversed in court.

The agency initially declared a successful recovery for the Yellowstone population in 2007. But a federal judge ordered protections to remain while wildlife officials studied whether the decline of a major food source — whitebark pine seeds — could threaten the bears’ survival.

The Fish and Wildlife Service concluded last year it had addressed that and all other threats.

There was speculation the agency would not appeal the latest ruling and instead draft a new proposal to get the animal off the threatened list.

That possibility was raised by the agency’s grizzly bear recovery coordinator during a meeting last month with Wyoming state lawmakers, according to the Powell Tribune.

Friday’s appeal signals that at least for now the court battle over grizzlies will grind on.

But Andrea Santarsiere with the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the plaintiffs in the case before Christensen, said the government still has the option in coming months to dismiss the case.

“I think Fish and Wildlife should go back to the drawing board and come up with a new plan to actually recover grizzly bears across the West, rather than a piecemeal approach,” she said.

Also pending before the 9th Circuit are appeals from parties that intervened on behalf of the Fish and Wildlife Service. They include the states of Idaho and Wyoming and groups representing hunting interests, gun rights and agriculture.

Cody Wisniewski with the Mountain States Legal Foundation said that if allowed to stand, Christensen’s ruling could make it harder for other species to be taken off the threatened and endangered species list.

“Opinions like this move the goalposts,” he said.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife spokeswoman Jennifer Strickland referred questions about the case to the Department of Justice, which did not provide an on-the-record comment.

Cubs rescued from dumpster

Reminder to keep garbage bins locked with hibernation just around the corner

A conservation officer tags the bear cubs’ ears before reuniting them with their mother. (B.C. Conservation Service)

Two bear cubs that somehow managed to get stuck in a recycling facility dumpster had to be rescued by conservation officers in Sooke, B.C., on Monday.

It’s not clear how the cubs climbed up and into the dumpster — but once in — they couldn’t get out.

Sgt. Scott Norris with the B.C. Conservation Service says the mother bear watched calmly from a distance when help arrived.

“When we showed up, we pulled into the yard and there was mom sitting at the back of the yard, sort of 50 yards away just watching,” he said.

View image on TwitterView image on Twitter

BC CO Service@_BCCOS

South Island CO’s rescued two bear cubs trapped in a dumpster at a materials recycling facility today in . The cubs were ear tagged and reunited with their mother who was patiently watching from afar. CO’s are reminding people that bears are still out looking for food

51 people are talking about this

The cubs were safely tranquilized, had their ears tagged and were pulled out of the dumpster.

They were then returned to their mother at a neighbouring property.

The dumpster didn’t have any food waste in it, but Debbie Reid with Wild Wise Sooke says the bear cubs’ rescue is a good reminder to secure all garbage bins.

“What triggers bears to sleep is the fact there is no food … but in Sooke we have people leaving out garbage and pet food and things like that,” she said.

“So the natural trigger isn’t being triggered.”

The conservation service says bears on Vancouver Island usually don’t go into hibernation until January.

2 bear-hunt opponents ticketed after bear freed from trap 

Originally published October 30, 2018 at 3:45 am Updated October 30, 2018 at
7:08 am


<> The Associated

The Associated Press

VERNON, N.J. (AP) – State officials have ticketed two bear hunt opponents
with freeing a young bear from a trap in New Jersey.

The BEAR Group released a short video on its Facebook page on which it says
a cub can be heard crying out for its mother.

The group’s lawyer, Doris Lin, tells The Star-Ledger of Newark the pair were
documenting what was happening, as was a third person who was not charged.
Lin would not comment on whether they were involved in the rescue.

The state placed two culvert traps at a condominium complex in Vernon after
two residents reported being charged at by a bear two weeks ago. The state
says the freed bear was younger and is not believed to have been involved in
that incident.


Information from: The (Newark, N.J.) Star-Ledger,

The Associated Press

An Increase In the Bear Population Has Led to Calls for Legal Hunts. But Is That Really Safer?

I saw my first bear this summer. I was working from home in New Fairfield, a small town on the New York border in northern Fairfield County, when my normally quiet, 34-pound labradoodle retriever transformed into full beast mode. She flung her paws against the window, accenting furious barks with deep, guttural growls, unlike any sound I’d heard her make before.

Walking onto my front porch, I saw a large black bear, lazily picking through the spoils of my garbage can, which he — I learned later this bear was probably male — had previously knocked over and opened.

I moved back into the house, flinging the door shut behind me. A moment later, prompted by my wife — whose motives I’m only now beginning to suspect — I ventured out again, to do what so many of us do when we encounter one of the Northeast’s most powerful predators: take a photo. As my camera clicked, the bear looked up from his food. Our eyes met.

2018 might be the year of the bear in Connecticut. Bear numbers swelled to about 800, according to the state Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, a population size not seen here in more than 150 years. Reported bear incidents also reached all-time highs, with more than 7,850 sightings reported to DEEP between October 2017 and September of this year.

In August, a bear walked through the automatic doors of a Bristol liquor store, and by October there were at least 25 reported instances of bears entering Connecticut homes this year. That is nearly twice the 2017 full-year total of 13 bear home entries, and far more than the yearly average of about six.

Bears have been seen in about 140 of Connecticut’s 169 towns and cities. They are found in greatest numbers in Litchfield County, western Hartford County and the northern portions of both Fairfield and New Haven counties. However, they are moving south in Fairfield and New Haven counties, and have been spotted more frequently east of the Connecticut River, though there are no permanent bear establishments there as of yet. DEEP estimates Connecticut can support about 3,000 bears.

“As the population continues to grow and expand you will see them push into new territory,” says Chris Collibee, DEEP spokesman.

You will also likely see new proposals to legalize the limited hunting of bears, which is currently illegal in the state. “We’re the only state in New England without a bear hunt,” Collibee says.

Earlier this year, DEEP supported legislative efforts to allow for a limited bear hunt in Litchfield County. The proposal was voted down by the Legislature’s Environment Committee 21-8. As with similar proposals in the past, it met with fierce resistance from animal rights and environmental groups including the Connecticut chapter of the Sierra Club and Darien-based Friends of Animals, whose members point to statistics showing many more people die from hunting accidents than from bear attacks.


UCONN wildlife expert Dr. Tracy Rittenhouse with an adult bear under study, briefly tranquilized by state DEEP staff while a GPS collar was changed before the bear and family were returned to the wild.jpg

UConn wildlife expert Tracy Rittenhouse with an adult bear under study. The bear was briefly tranquilized by state DEEP staff while a GPS collar was changed before the bear and its family were returned to the wild.

In testimony submitted in March, DEEP Commissioner Robert Klee said, “It is the opinion of our wildlife biologists that bear hunting — with prudent limitations — is consistent with best practices for wildlife management in Connecticut.”

With a new governor scheduled to take office, it is unclear what the state’s position on bear hunts will be going forward, but representatives of groups on both sides of the issue have stances that remain unchanged.

The Coalition of Connecticut Sportsmen, a state advocacy organization dedicated to protecting hunting and fishing rights as well as gun rights, has also lobbied the legislature in support of a bear hunt. Bob Crook, executive director of the organization, says that it is expensive for DEEP to deal with problem bears by catching or euthanizing them. “A better, more effective way of getting the population down is to allow hunting,” he says, noting there is interest in hunting bears from Connecticut hunters who would eat the meat and have the hide and fur tanned.

“Maybe somebody has to be killed by one of these bears before we take anything seriously,” he says.

Fran Silverman, communications director of Friends of Animals, which supports a vegan lifestyle, disagrees with Crook’s assessment of the risk. She says a bear hunt is more of a threat than that posed by bears, as hunting accidents are far more common than bear attacks. “In Connecticut, between 2011 and 2016, there’s been 13 accidents and one hunting fatality, and zero bear fatalities,” she says. Silverman adds that from 1982, around when bears first returned to Connecticut, up until 2016 there were 114 hunting accidents and 13 fatalities, while no one was killed by bears over the same time period.

Though there are attacks on livestock and pets each year in Connecticut, bear attacks on humans are exceedingly rare. In 2017, a bear was euthanized after swiping at a woman walking her dog in a Simsbury park, but Collibee from DEEP says, “We’ve never had an overly significant incident of a bear attacking a human, at least in recent memory.”

The bear population in Connecticut was nonexistent by the mid-1800s thanks to aggressive hunting and widespread deforestation to make room for farmland. Black bears survived in western Massachusetts, and after forests returned to much of Connecticut, they began traveling back in the 1980s. Males range from 150 to 450 pounds, and though they are not classified as true hibernators, their body temperature is lowered and heart rate slows during denning periods, generally between late November and mid-March in Connecticut. They commonly den under fallen trees or in brush piles, but varied sites are used including rocky ledges. While denning, they don’t eat, defecate or urinate, but will usually wake up when disturbed. Though bears are more active between March and November, Collibee says, “it is not unusual to see the occasional bear during the winter months.”

Bears have an excellent sense of smell and will seek out garbage and other food left outside. Though generally shy, and fearful of humans, according to DEEP’s fact sheet, “if they regularly find food near houses and areas of human activity, they can lose their fear of humans.”

Bear-hunt proponents believe a hunt would help instill a healthy fear of humans in more bears. Tracy Rittenhouse, a professor of wildlife ecology in UConn’s Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, says, “The scientific literature provides good evidence for other wildlife species changing their behavior in response to hunting,” but adds, “I think the evidence in the scientific literature specific to black bears just hasn’t been collected.”

In 2017, Rittenhouse published research showing that the largest bear populations in Connecticut were found on the fringes of suburban areas, rather than in rural areas. These “exurban areas” have woodlands as well as scattered houses, offering bears garbage- and bird feeder-foraging opportunities. More recently, Rittenhouse and colleagues looked at how bears living in low-density neighborhoods navigated through them. Analyzing data from GPS monitors on bear collars in currently unpublished research, they found that as bears travel across the state, on average, they avoid houses and roads, but “there are some [bears] that move through that neighborhood moving almost toward houses and toward roads.”

Rittenhouse says the behavior observed in both studies is most likely not behavior only exhibited by Connecticut bears.

“I’ve not seen anything here in Connecticut that’s completely different than bears in New York or Massachusetts,” says Rittenhouse, who will speak about the increased sightings of bears and other large mammals at an event of the Aspetuck Land Trust on Nov. 14 at 7:30 p.m. at the Unitarian Church in Westport. “I think what’s unique about Connecticut is that we have [a lot of neighborhoods with] this housing density that typifies exurban housing development. … What our research has shown is that it’s a housing density that bears really like, too.”


A black bear spotted in New Fairfield on July 21, 2018.

Encounters between homeowners and bears are becoming more common, especially around homes in wooded areas, as the bear population increases and spreads across the state. Our writer found this out firsthand when he discovered this bear going through his garbage. He has since learned to secure his trash to discourage foraging — and not to go outside to get a better picture of the bear.

The bear that visited my house and feasted on my garbage was huge. As cute as he looks in pictures, in real life he was terrifying. My wife hasn’t walked the dog at night since his appearance, and every time my dog barks, I go into high alert, scanning the perimeter of the lawn from my windows.

Even so, it would be heartbreaking to see this bear hunted and killed. While not everyone agrees with that sentiment, people on both sides of the bear hunt issue do agree that those of us who live in neighborhoods near bear populations need to take more steps to prevent encounters. These include keeping garbage in a shed or garage, not leaving bird feeders out from March till late November and storing grills inside. Bear sightings can be reported to DEEP through its website at Those requiring immediate assistance with a bear should call DEEP’s 24-hour hotline at 860-424-3333.

I’ve heard the saying that “a fed bear is a dead bear,” the notion that feeding a bear, whether intentionally or unintentionally, lures them into more interactions with humans and increases the odds they will end up being euthanized. I took the saying to heart, moving my garbage indoors and attempting to clean my property of anything that might tempt the bear in the future. Bears frequently return to places where they’ve found food in the past, and a few weeks after my initial meeting, my dog once more sprung into beast mode. This time I knew the signs. Looking out the window, I watched as the bear walked down my driveway and past where the garbage used to be. Finding nothing, he kept walking instead of hanging out again. Thankfully, I haven’t seen him since.