Florida plans second bear hunt

[WARNING: GRAPHIC CONTENT] Hunter kills bear caught on video

The most controversial hunt in Florida in a generation ended Sunday, but the disputes over the state’s decision to reopen bear hunting are far from over.

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission says it plans to repeat the hunt next year, a plan certain to spark intense debate.

The commission is pursuing criminal cases against several hunters suspected of baiting, which involves setting out food to attract the bears, as well as two cases of bears killed under the 100-pound minimum. Hunters are discussing lawsuits against hunt opponents who threatened and harassed them over the Internet. A planned rescue of orphaned cubs has been called off.

The wildlife commission ended the hunt after only two days, as the tally of dead bears hit 298, near the statewide quota of 320. In the eastern Panhandle, hunters killed 112 bears, nearly triple the quota of 40.

“That is a disaster by anyone’s count,” said Frank Jackalone, senior organizing manager for the Sierra Club of Florida. “We don’t know how many more bears were wounded and are dying in the forest, how many undersized bears were killed and just left there. We don’t know how many bear cubs were made orphans as a result of this hunt. We think that the FWC rolled the dice. The hunters found them and killed them very quickly, and the FWC was caught with their pants down. They were surprised.”

But officials with the wildlife service say the high kill count in the Panhandle and the commission’s swift action to end the hunt showed that the region has a abundant bear population and that the hunt was well controlled.

“That’s one of the large, growing bear populations,” said Thomas Eason, director of the agency’s Habitat and Species Conservation Division at a news conference Monday in Tallahassee. “We had a limited, conservative approach … We definitely were surprised by the amount of harvest on the first day.”

In South Florida, where the hunt took place primarily in Hendry and Collier counties, hunters killed 22 bears, far short of the area’s quota of 80. Eason said this may have been because the amount of public land open to hunting was much smaller in South Florida, where much of the bear population lives on federal land that’s closed to hunting, such as Big Cypress National Preserve and the Florida Panther National Wildlife Refuge.

Diane Eggeman, director of Hunting and Game Management Division, said the commission expected to authorize another bear hunt.

“It’s our intent to have a hunt annually,” she said. “Everything is on the table at this point. We’re going to assess how the hunt went.”

Her initial assessment: “We got a good start on advancing our objective of stabilizing the large, healthy and growing bear population.”

The bear population has been estimated at more than 3,000 by the wildlife service, although the first population assessment in 13 years has only been partially completed.

She said investigators were pursuing “several” baiting cases, “a couple” of cases involving underweight bears and cases of hunters shooting bears outside the legal dates of the hunt. These violations would be second-degree misdemeanors, carrying up to $500 in fines and up to 60 days in jail.

Newton Cook, executive director of the duck hunting group United Waterfowlers of Florida, hunted bears without luck in the Ocala National Forest. But he called the hunt statewide a success, a well-run enterprise that helped control the bear population.

“As far as the hunters were concerned, it was a tremendous success and they were glad for the opportunity,” he said. “This has proven there are plenty of bears and the FWC has the resources to control the hunt. The FWC had a plan and a program that worked, and when the number they set as a target was about to be reached, they shut it down.”

For hunters, the worst thing wasn’t a failure to find a bear, it was the harassment from opponents. Under Florida’s open record law, the wildlife commission released the names and email addresses of the more than 3,000 bear permit holders (with some names withheld under exceptions to the law).

“I got emails saying ‘You killer,’ and ‘I hope you die’ and ‘murderer,'” Cook said.

One list of permit holders posted on the web called the hunters “3,000 serial killers.”

On Facebook, hunters have been collecting the worst comments and most serious threats. They are discussing whether to file suit against the people sending them out or organizing the email campaign.

Some hunt opponents had planned to head into the woods to rescue cubs orphaned by the hunt. But late Monday afternoon, they called it off.

“It is with a heavy heart that we write these next few words,” wrote Chuck O’Neal, a Seminole County environmentalist who was one of the organizers of the campaign against the hunt, in a message to other activists. “After consultation with the only private black bear cub rehabilitation facility in Florida, and weighing all the possible outcomes, we are calling off our search for orphan cubs.”

He said they called it off because the cubs were likely old enough to survive on their own, because they didn’t want the cubs to lose their fear of people and to avoid putting any would-be rescuers in danger.

He said they were better off putting their energy into pressing communities to require bear-proof garbage cans and fighting a return of the hunt next year.

“We can learn to co-exist with the bears,” he wrote. “We can end this cruel and unscientific hunt if we have leaders in place that make decisions based on science and not political expediency.”

Florida Black Bear Hunt Represents Failure of Wildlife Management

By On October 26, 2015 · 43 Comments · In Wildlife News

Florida just held its first bear hunt in several decades, targeting 300 of the bruins for death. Just three years ago, the black bear was listed as threatened, and the state’s bears had not been hunted since 1994.

The proximate reason for the hunt is that bears, according to representatives of the Florida Wildlife Commission, is that a growing bear population is contributing to greater conflicts between humans and bears. Hunters and the Wildlife Commission like to portray the issue as “problem bears”, but the reality is that there are no problem bears, only problem humans.

Most of these conflicts are due to human negligence. People leaving food attractants like unsecured garbage cans which train bears to forage near humans.

Ironically, indiscriminate hunting is not likely to reduce conflicts. For one thing, most hunters do not hunt immediately next to subdivisions where most conflicts are occurring. Rather they are most likely to the larger parcels of public or private lands. So the animals that hunters are killing, are not likely to be the ones that are wandering the edges of communities.

The second problem with indiscriminate hunting is that it’s difficult for a hunter to determine the sex of a bear. Many females with cubs are killed, leaving the young bears orphaned. Orphaned bears are inexperienced at foraging and desperate to eat, are more likely to be attracted to human foods.

So in effect, hunting only exacerbates the problem that the Florida Wildlife Commission seeks to solve.

The worse part of the hunt is that it ignores the social ecology of predators. Fish and Game agency always talk about maintaining populations. The problem with this kind of management is that it ignores the demographics of wildlife. Hunting tends to skew populations towards younger animals. So even if you maintain the same “population” if the population consists of many young inexperienced animals, you automatically create conflicts. Young animals are less likely to know the location of natural food resources, and are less successful as hunters. As a consequence, they are the very animals most likely to seek out garbage, livestock, and other human food resources.

Whether it is hunting of black bears in Florida, or the recent announcement by Oregon’s Fish and Wildlife to increase cougar hunting, wildlife agencies across the country tend to ignore predator social ecology. In effect, by having indiscriminate hunting and trapping of predators, these state wildlife agencies create a self-reinforcing loop. Predators are killed, resulting in a younger population, which in turn is more likely to create human conflicts, that are then used as an additional justification for more killing.

I see no evidence anywhere that state wildlife agencies are using the latest ecological science in their attitude and management of predators. It suggests that wildlife agencies cannot be trusted to manage predators. Keep in mind, that predators numbers will not grow indefinitely. They are self-managing, primarily by the availability of prey and food, as well as social interaction. Except perhaps for very specific surgical removal of individual animals, there is no good justification for killing predators. Even the argument that “I’m feeding my family” used by some hunters seldom applies to most predators which are not usually consumed.

Predators serve an important ecological function. Bears, for instance, move seeds of some plants around—think of the huckleberry that may be deposited in their droppings. Cougar can thin elk and deer herds to reduce their herbivory on favor plants like aspen and willow. Wolves can remove the injured and sick from a population.

Hunting of predators makes no sense in today’s world.


B.C. cub case is unbearably stupid

Naomi Lakritz, Calgary Herald
More from Naomi Lakritz, Calgary Herald

July 10, 2015 | Last Updated: July 10, 2015 3:00 AM MDT

Black bear cubs Athena and Jordan look on from their enclosure at the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association in Errington, B.C. CHAD HIPOLITO / THE CANADIAN PRESS

How strange to be a conservation officer and then risk getting punished for doing your job and conserving things.

B.C. conservation officer Bryce Casavant has been suspended with pay pending an investigation into why he let a couple of black bear cubs live. The eight-week-old cubs lost their mother, who was killed because she’d repeatedly been foraging in a freezer of fish and meat at a Port Hardy mobile home.

Casavant refused to kill the cubs, who were in a tree at the site, calling for their mother. Instead, he tranquillized them, and took them to a veterinarian, from where they were sent to a wildlife recovery centre.

Casavant did the right thing. He should be reinstated immediately. The argument that at eight weeks, these babies were already habituated to human food, and thus likely to grow up to be problem bears, is nonsense, based on studies of how bear cubs develop.

According to bearrehabilitation.org: “Sally Maughan, founder of Idaho Black Bear Rehab, Inc. has recorded extensive notes on cub development over her rehabilitation career. In general, the infant stage ranges from birth to eight weeks old. In that time, the eyes and ears open, teeth erupt, and exploration and wobble walking begin. Between eight to 12 weeks, cubs seem to pass through the bear equivalent of the terrible twos. There are swift emotional changes from calm to biting, attacking, scratching, and crying tantrums. At four to seven months old cubs are at the age of destruction and social learning as they roughhouse with siblings and other orphans. From eight months to dispersion, peace breaks out as the cubs mature and ceaselessly learn about their environment.”

In other words, the B.C. cubs didn’t have a clue what their mother was doing and they shouldn’t be punished with death for simply tagging along. It’s not like mom could get a babysitter for them while she went grocery shopping.

As Angelika Langen, co-founder of the Smithers-based Northern Lights Wildlife Society, told the media: “It’s just ridiculous. There is absolutely no scientific proof that cubs that follow their mothers for (human) food at this age have learned anything. When they’re little like this, they’re just following mom; they’re not learning yet. When they’re more than one year, it’s a totally different story.”

Chris Doyle, acting deputy chief of the Conservation Officer Service, told the media in Victoria that the Port Hardy cubs “had some level of habituation and food conditioning.” Doyle should know better than that. Casavant certainly did.

Thousands of people have signed a petition online lauding Casavant and insisting he be reinstated. I don’t think it’s just because bear cubs are cute and fuzzy. I think it’s because, as in the case of the cougar that was fatally shot last year as it peacefully sunned itself on the lawn of Calgary’s South Health Campus, people are sick and tired of the senseless and unnecessary deaths of wildlife.

A lot of people didn’t buy the official explanation that cleared the cougar shooting as a matter of public safety after some initial bumbling with tranquillizer guns. The cougar was bothering no one.

Of such incidents that make the news, one of the few that was handled properly — that is, no animal was needlessly killed — was the case of the Scenic Acres moose. When a mother moose and her twin calves turned up in a ravine in the northwest Calgary community in May, and failed to leave after a few weeks, officials tranquillized the mother, rounded up the calves, and moved the family far away out of the city.

Casavant should go back to work — he is obviously a highly competent, caring and humane individual — and the cubs should be cared for at the rehab centre until they can be released into the wild. The focus should always be on finding ways to let wildlife live, rather than killing them.

Naomi Lakritz is a Herald columnist.


Petitioning Ministry of Environment, Canada

Petitioning Ministry of Environment Mary Polak

Reinstate conservation officer Bryce Casavant


Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant has been suspended without pay pending a performance investigation after he refused to put down two bear cubs this weekend.

These baby bears, a brother and sister, were orphaned after their mother had to be destroyed after she had, at least twice, broken into a freezer of salmon and deer meat inside a mobile home on Hardy Bay Road, “through no fault of the owner.” “Although it is unlikely the mother was in town due to the fire, it is hard to know,” said Casavant.

On July 5, Casavant and members of the Port Hardy Fire Department literally pulled out all stops to rescue the babies who had come back to the property and were up a tree calling for their mother.

“They (firefighters) had their high-angle rescue specialist scale the tree and rappel down on top of the bears to lower them to me. I then tranquilized them by hand,” said Casavant.

The babies were estimated to be about eight weeks and weigh 20 to 25 pounds, are healthy and still nursing.

Please sign this petition to show your support to have Bryce Casavant reinstated as conservation officer to the North Island.

Letter to
Ministry of Environment Mary Polak
Reinstate conservation officer Bryce Casavant

B.C. conservation officer suspended for refusing to put down bear cubs

Bryce Casavant, a Vancouver Island conservation officer has been suspended without pay, pending a performance investigation for refusing to put down a pair of bear cubs near Port Hardy last weekend.


A B.C. Conservation officer has been suspended without pay after he reportedly refused an order to put down two bear cubs last weekend.

The cubs were orphaned after their mother was killed for breaking into a meat freezer inside a mobile home in Port Hardy on Vancouver Island.

After tranquilizing the cubs, Bryce Casavant brought them to a vet to be checked out and then to the North Island Wildlife Recovery Association operated by Robin Campbell.

Campbell says the bears, believed to be around eight weeks old, were at the home only because they were looking for their mother.

An online petition has been launched by the association calling on B.C. Environment Minister Mary Polak to reinstate Casavant.

The petition had collected well over 17,000 names by early Wednesday.

North Island Wildlife Awareness

Conservation Officer Bryce Casavant has been suspended without pay pending a performance investigation after he refused to put down two bear cubs this weekend.
These baby bears, a brother and sister, were orphaned after their mother had to be destroyed after she had, at least twice, broken into a freezer of salmon and deer meat inside a mobile home on Hardy Bay Road, “through no fault of the owner.”
“Although it is unlikely the mother was in town due to the fire, it is hard to know,” said Casavant.
On July 5, Casavant and members of the Port Hardy Fire Department literally pulled out all stops to rescue the babies who had come back to the property and were up a tree calling for their mother.
“They (firefighters) had their high-angle rescue specialist scale the tree and rappel down on top of the bears to lower them to me. I then tranquilized them by hand,” said Casavant.
The babies were estimated to be about eight weeks and weigh 20 to 25 pounds, are healthy and still nursing.

They did nothing wrong and the order to destroy them came came in even before we had the little things out of the tree. I’m not sure how a decision can be made so quickly based on so little information from so far away. -Justin Reusch Port Hardy Fire Department.

Please sign this petition to show your support to have Bryce Casavant reinstated as conservation officer to the North Island.

Stop Trophy Hunters from Killing Bears in Florida

Petitioning Governor Rick Scott

Urgent: Stop Trophy Hunters from Killing Bears in Florida!


Bears are facing imminent danger as the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) considers a proposal that would open a trophy hunt on Florida’s still-recovering population of black bears for the first time in over 20 years.  As a Florida resident, I have always valued the abundant and diverse wildlife that this state has to offer, and I need your help to keep Florida’s bears protected.

Florida bears were only recently removed from the endangered species list, and the majority of Floridians oppose this hunt.  The FWC doesn’t even know how many bears there are in the state – the last statewide population count was 13 years ago!

If this hunt is approved at the FWC’s June 24th meeting, hundreds of bears could be slaughtered as early as this October.  Once approved, it is also possible that the FWC will allow incredibly cruel and barbaric killing methods, including hounding — where bears are chased by packs of radio-collared dogs so that houndsmen can easily shoot bears off of tree branches, and baiting — where bears are lured by piles of doughnuts and other pastries, and shot while they’re gorging themselves.

Despite hearing from thousands of residents opposed to this trophy hunt, the FWC blatantly ignored those voices.  In fact, the FWC Commission Chair blew off the opinions of anyone who didn’t agree with him, condescendingly stating: “[t]hose people don’t know what they’re talking about… They think we’re talking about teddy bears.”  Don’t let them silence you!

Governor Rick Scott appoints the FWC wildlife commissioners, and has the power to put a stop to this misguided, scientifically indefensible trophy hunt. Florida is one of the nation’s top tourist destinations, and Governor Scott needs to know that the public doesn’t want to visit a state that promotes cruelty.

Please join me in asking Florida Governor Rick Scott to call off this hunt and show that Florida values its wildlife and the voices of its residents.

Letter to
Governor Rick Scott
I am writing to ask you to please call off the trophy hunt of Florida’s black bears.
Bears are facing imminent danger as the Florida Fish and Wildlife

Severely burned bear finally ready to return to the wild

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

WENATCHEE, Wash. — A black bear rescued from Washington’s largest ever wildfire is about to be free again.

The bear was starving and severely burned in the Carlton Complex of fires, and there were serious concerns about her chances for survival. But as Wildlife Biologist Rich Beausoleil got his first look at the bear in months, he was happy with what he saw.

“She looks amazing,” he said.

This is the closest the bear, now named Cinder, has been to her home territory in the Methow Valley in nearly a year. It’s almost hard to believe the 124 pound bear is the same one who was rescued from the fire last August.

“Isn’t that something?” Beausoleil said as he examined her paws. ” Some of these claws in the front, there was only two. And now there’s all five again.”

Those claws are key for Cinder to be able to climb trees and forage for food. When she was suffering from third degree burns, Cinder couldn’t even walk. A volunteer pilot flew her to the Lake Tahoe Wildlife Center in California, where a team treated her injuries. Then, six months ago, Cinder moved to Idaho Black Bear Rehab.

As her food was slowly reduced before the winter, natural instincts kicked in, and she denned up. When she came out, she was with two other bears — one from Wyoming and a cub that had been orphaned near Leavenworth.

“When they came out of the den, the Wyoming bear got a little pushy,” Beausoleil explained. “Cinder stepped in. ‘I’m going to keep the peace. I don’t like what’s happening here, back off.'”

Ever since, the smaller bear stuck by Cinder’s side. The two will be released together. Beausoleil says they might stay together anywhere from two days to two months, but because they are solitary animals, he’s certain they’ll eventually separate.

He should know where both wind up. The bears are collared with GPS units that will send back information. The collars are designed to eventually fall off as the bear grows, but the hope is they will last long enough to track the animals’ progress. Two winters from now, Beausoleil hopes to track Cinder to her den with help from the collar.

“We don’t know what the outcomes going to be, but we’re going to give her the best chance possible we’re putting her in a great spot where she’s going to make a heck of a living,” he said.

And based on how she cared for the smaller bear, Beausoleil says thriving could include having her own cubs.

“She has that motherly instinct and she’s probably going to be a pretty good first time mom. Maybe next year or the year after she’ll wind up having cubs of her own. I hope she’s still collared and we can document it,” he said.

Washington Bills Undermine Advancements for Wildlife

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson

Two new bills seek to underhandedly undermine voter-approved advancements for wildlife that set Washington apart from its anti-wildlife neighbors. Both the hound hunting of cougars and the baiting of black bears were banned by the citizenry of  in Washington, but could once again threaten wildlife if these bills are passed. Please take action on these two Human Alerts:


Washington: Protect Cougars from Trophy Hunters

A terrible bill has been introduced that will allow for the expanded hound hunting of cougars. This cruel and unsporting practice was rightfully outlawed by voters in 1996.

Under this proposal, counties can authorize a hound hunt based on public safety complaints of cougar sightings. The existing law already allows for citizens to protect themselves if they feel threatened by a cougar. Despite the fact that seeing a cougar does not constitute a threat and cougar kittens are extremely vulnerable to attacks by packs of dogs, proponents of the bill want to bring back the trophy hunting of cougars with hounds. This program was in place from 2004 until 2011, and resulted in widespread, guided recreational hound hunts offered by hunting clubs throughout eastern Washington.

Please call your state senator today to stop this dangerous proposal. Look up your legislator’s phone number. You can say: “I am a constituent, and I am calling to ask you to please oppose SB 5940.”

After making your call (please do not skip that crucial step!), fill in and submit the form below to send a follow-up message. Legislators receive a lot of email; be sure to edit your message so it stands out.

And:  https://secure.humanesociety.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=6777&autologin=true&s_src=sh_aa6777

Washington: Protect Bears from Cruel and Unsporting Baiting

Washington’s bears need your help from being shot over bait stations packed with greasy, sugary junk foods. Bear baiting is cruel and unsporting, and Washingtonians rightfully outlawed it in 1996.

A bill has been introduced that would allow any land owner or tenant to place a bait station on their property. Baiting stations, full of high-calorie junk food, lure bears in for an easy kill. While the bill sponsor wants landowners to kill bears who have caused damage to timber plantations and livestock, the truth is baiting attracts all bears. The result will be killing random bears, orphaning new born cubs, and unnecessarily putting people in dangerous proximity to human-food habituated bears.

After hibernation, bears are in a state of starvation because they have not fed for many months. Sadly, mother bears, who wake up with newborn cubs, are drawn to bait stations because they must urgently obtain thousands of calories for the whole family’s survival.

Mother bears may strip bark from trees to obtain sugary sap. While girdling trees has some negative economic consequences for the owners of industrial timber lands, the harm is small and can be mitigated. Likewise, livestock growers can employ many non-lethal solutions to prevent the minuscule threat of predation by bears on their domestic animals

Landowners who bait bears will create unwanted human-bear conflicts. That is because baits are covered in human scents, and bears will learn to associate baits with humans. When that happens, the neighbors of bear baiters may be exposed to human-habituated bears, and they can be dangerous. There is a reason why voters prohibited bear baiting almost 20 years ago.

Please call your state representatives’ offices today, and urge opposition for SHB 1838.. Look up your legislators’ phone numbers. You can say: “I am a constituent, and I am calling to ask you to please oppose SHB 1838.”

After making your call (please do not skip that crucial step!), fill in and submit the form below to send a follow-up message. Legislators receive a lot of email; be sure to edit your message so it stands out.

See sample letters here: https://secure.humanesociety.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=6771&autologin=true&s_src=sh_aa6771

and here: https://secure.humanesociety.org/site/Advocacy?cmd=display&page=UserAction&id=6777&autologin=true&s_src=sh_aa6777


Florida Reinstates Bear Hunting Season


To Curb Bear Population, Florida Reinstates Hunting Season

February 28, 2015

For the first time in two decades, Florida officials have scheduled a bear hunting season. It’s a response to a rise in bear attacks — but it has some environmentalists upset.

Experts say there’s plenty of room for humans and black bears to co-exist, but the smell of food is pulling the animals out of the woods and into neighborhoods.

If you want to understand the situation, take a trip to Franklin County, in the pandhandle. A few months ago, a bear attacked a teenager there while she walked her dog near a convenience store.


Kaitlin Goode, a biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, explains that garbage — strewn through the woods and across the road at a recycling center for appliances — is part of the problem. She says bears can’t help but drag tasty things back into the woods.

“These communities are backed right up to the forest, and it’s just a bear pump,” Goode says. The bears are flourishing in the woods, she says, “and they smell this. They might be in the middle of the woods, but they can smell this.”

Bears are making a comeback in the panhandle — where it’s mostly forest — and in the rest of Florida. In 2002 when the Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, or FWC, did its last population count, there were about 3,000 bears. Now they’re counting again.

Thomas Eason, the state director of Habitat Species Coordination at the FWC, says he expects the population to have grown significantly because of increased bear sightings.

“As you get more bears, particularly with more people, you start having more and more negative interactions,” he says. “And so, finding that balance point that we call cultural carrying capacity is important.”

To reduce human-bear conflicts, FWC wants new feeding rules and more bear-proof trash cans. Hunting is part of the plan, too.

The state hunt isn’t finalized and won’t be until the fall, but environmentalists are still upset. Kate MacFall of the Humane Society of the United States, says there’s no evidence a hunt will help.

“It’s a recreational activity that a small percentage of the population wants to do,” she says. “But in terms of decreasing human-bear conflicts, there is no science that supports that.”

MacFall says if wildlife officials want to reduce bear attacks, they need to focus on getting people to stop feeding bears — whether through intentional feeding or letting the animals go through the trash.

If none of these solutions work, the bears could be moved.

Caster is a 20-year-old black bear who lives at the Tallahassee Museum. During the fall, the bear needs to consume more than 15,000 calories daily. Mike Jones, an animal curator at the museum, says that drive for food is what landed Caster there.

“He started going to everybody’s houses and going in garages,” he says. “So the Fish and Wildlife Service relocated him and moved him about 150 miles away into a big swamp area.”

But Caster couldn’t stay away from people so officials moved him to a zoo.

He’s lucky. Last year, Florida Fish and Wildlife officials had to kill almost 50 bears that had started to associate humans with food.


On hunting predators


We hunt predators but we can’t say why

The New West / By Todd Wilkinson | Posted: Wednesday, November 12, 2014 1:15 pm

Consider this loaded question: Should grizzly bears, wolves and cougars be hunted for sport? Worldwide, given their rarity and declining numbers, should lions, leopards, cheetahs, jaguars and tigers?

If so, why?

Across North America we find ourselves in another big game hunting season. For many the harvest is as much about putting meat in the freezer — a form of modern subsistence — as it is about the profoundly personal act of communing with nature.

From an early age, a lot of us were taught two guiding ethical principles: Don’t take the life of an animal unless you intend to eat it, and, if you do kill, there ought to be a good reason.

As states sanction hunts of iconic predators (grizzlies and black bears, wolves, mountain lions and coyotes), there remains a fact: People will eat little of those animals that they kill.

The search for a rationale in targeting predators must necessarily speak to reasoning beyond the simplistic argument advanced by fish and game departments that selling hunting tags generates revenue.

The issue of whether there’s an underlying moral — and compelling biological — justification for killing predators is taken up by two university professors in a new thought-provoking scientific analysis, “Wolf Hunting and the Ethics of Predator Control,” soon to be included in a new book, “The Oxford Handbook of Animal Studies.”

Author John Vucetich is a well-known Midwest wolf researcher and conservation biologist at Michigan Tech University; Michael P. Nelson is on the faculty at Oregon State University. In their paper they examine why large carnivores — which possess undeniable ecological value — are hunted.

Before we proceed let it be clear that Vucetich and Nelson did not write the paper to advance an anti-hunting agenda. They wanted to determine if any “good reason” for hunting predators exists.

“What counts as an adequate reason to kill a sentient creature?” they ask. “The hunting community has long recognized the value of this question to understanding the conditions under which various kinds of hunting is appropriate.”

Vucetich and Nelson consider the spectrum of societal attitudes toward predator hunting as expressed by trophy hunters, government wildlife managers, those who hunt for food, those who eat no meat and animal rights advocates.

They dissect the premise that predators must be controlled to ensure healthy populations of elk, deer, moose and pronghorn — and even, as is sometimes asserted, to protect people. They test the assertion that the best way of promoting conservation of a species is to place a value on its head and hunt it.

They also scrutinize the attitudes of so-called “wolf haters,” pointing out that unlike hunters of edible big game, whose pursuit seems to make humans more respectful of the animal, many who kill wolves are actually driven by a lack of empathy.

In a statement certain to spark debate, they charge: “Many instances of wolf poaching … are wrong because they are primarily motivated by a hatred of wolves. These instances of poaching qualify as wrongful deaths, if not hate crimes.

“To legalize such killing does not make them any less wrong. Moreover, people who threaten to poach wolves unless wolf killing is legalized are engaging in a kind of ecological blackmail … .”

Vucetich and Nelson also share thoughts about trapping: “A trophy is a kind of prize, memento or symbol of some kind of success. To kill a sentient creature for the purpose of using its body or part of it as a trophy is essentially killing it for fun or as a celebration of violence.

“And although there was once a time when trapping wolves for their pelts might have been a respectable means of making a living because wolf pelts were then a reasonable way to make warm clothing,” they state, “we no longer live in that time.”

Ultimately Vucetich and Nelson conclude that killing predators for sport isn’t justified biologically or on moral and ethical grounds.

They take government agencies and universities to task for not brokering honest discussions about such controversial issues as wolf management and predator control with citizens and students.

So often we do things in our society, they suggest, without bothering to provide the “good reason” for why.

Readers can judge for themselves. A copy of the analysis is attached to the online version of this story.