Psychological Reality Equals Orphaned Bear cubs> Born Free USA Canadian Blog by Barry Kent MacKay


<> Psychological Reality Equals Orphaned Bear Cubs

Posted: 27 Nov 2015 07:22 AM PST

Bear Cub <> © John Buie

In animal protection work, rule number one to successful resolution of any animal abuse issue is this: be right! Be correct and accurate in what you say and back it up as well as you can with objective, science-based documentation. Pay due attention to, and address, the rationales given for the abuse, whatever they are, and separate fact from fiction from speculation from what one might wish. But, always remember that facts are not enough; being right is a necessary foundation (but not enough to win the day).

As I alluded to <> last week, that is just not enough. And, no issue better illustrates this frustration than the Ontario spring bear hunt controversy discussed in my previous blog. Contrary to all evidence, it appears that most people want the very thing that does not work: to allow the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources and Forestry (MNRF) to go ahead with plans for a spring black bear hunt over most of the province (ostensibly, in part, to reduce the likelihood of conflicts between bears and humans). The problem is that there is an abundance of evidence—including assessments done by the MNRF’s own scientists and the Environmental Commissioner of Ontario, plus a committee struck years ago to examine the issue—that it won’t do that, and may even exacerbate the problem.

Much research has been done on the difficulty people have in objectively identifying degrees of risk. There have been various attempts to explain the phenomenon, such as this <> popular version meant for lay readers on the Psychology Today website. In the last decade, as an advocate, I’ve found myself reading numerous science texts and peer-reviewed research on human cognition, trying to understand how or why people can believe that which is demonstrably not true. We all do it, and scientists know we do, but the public too often assumes that simply believing something makes it true and lacks the training or inclination to determine truth from fiction.

A theory that explains why we so often err is that one part of the human brain, the intuitive part, unconsciously but persistently informs us (which is to say, influences the more conscious and analytical part of the brain) with beliefs that may or may not be accurate. The analytical part of the brain is consciously driven, but cannot reasonably be expected to override the intuitive part without very tangible, mindful, physically measureable effort.

Decision-making of the first of these two methods serves to allow us to act in the absence of the need to fully assess the risk: a trait of obvious selective value. All of this is explored in books like Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (2013), but not the sort of thing likely to be perused by the “average” voter, bear hunter, or politician.

Thus, we may fear snakes and spiders, even in regions where there are no venomous species, as many people do—and yet feel comfortable around automobiles, which present a true and documented relatively high risk to our individual survival.

We also tend to provide extra weight to events precisely because they are spectacular and unlikely. Thus, there may be disproportionate fear. An estimated 450 people die from falling from their beds per year in the U.S., for example, but years go by with no one being killed by a black bear.

The risk of death from falling out of bed is easily reduced by such simple and inexpensive actions as sleeping on a mattress on the floor, sleeping in a bed with crib-sides or restraints, or sleeping with heavy padding on the floor on both sides of the bed, and yet almost no one bothers with such basic, convenient, and inexpensive precautions. Black bears are notoriously shy and secretive, but they do need food, and in times of shortages, by avoiding making food (“attractants”) available, bears simply have no reason to become a nuisance.

The political benefit to the MNRF’s proposal comes not only from the advantage of making many Ontario residents think they are being more, not less, protected from Human/Bear Conflicts (HBCs), but also by making them think there are monetary savings to them as tax payers.

In part, the latter may well be true, although not to the degree perhaps assumed. A significant percentage of the cost of maintaining greater safety from HBCs has been downloaded from the provincial level, thus shared by all provincial tax-paying Ontarians, to the municipal level, and is thus now borne, in good part, by the very communities who think they are being protected.

A myth has been promulgated in central and northern Ontario that the Bear Wise program, prior to the Ontario government severely cutting its funding, didn’t work. But it did, when the community involved cooperated. In Elliot Lake, over a 10-year period, nuisance bear calls declined by 53% – 91% each year. But, as research has clearly shown, the lower the amount of natural food (due to variations in weather), the more frequent the calls, although still significantly reduced.

Saying Bear Wise didn’t work is like warning parents not to leave something dangerous around children, and then having a tragedy when the advice is ignored, and using it to prove the warning didn’t work. By implementing the recommendations of Bear Wise, there were objectively provable results. And yet, when we had a full-blown spring bear hunt during a shortage in natural bear browse (Ontario black bears are predominately vegetarian) in 1991 – 1992, there were as many complaints about bear encounters as there have been in the absence of the spring bear hunt.

Bear Wise, properly funded by all Ontarians, works; the spring bear hunt does not. Cutting funds to Bear Wise shifts costs from being shared across the province—including the largest population centers—to only those communities in central and northern Ontario, while suckering them into thinking they are being well served.

The spring bear hunt, for reasons given in my last blog, causes the orphaning of bear cubs. Let’s not assume it makes anyone safer from bears. Like cock-fighting, dog-fighting, bull-fighting, and trophy hunting, it, at best, creates profits from animal suffering. We Ontarians can do better.

Keep wildlife in the wild,

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U.S. hunters may be invited to help control Ontario’s bear population

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

CTV Toronto
Published Saturday, April 26, 2014 11:41AM EDT

The Ontario government says it may consider opening up its bear hunt program to Americans if the spring pilot program fails to control the animal’s population.

Starting in May, a six-week bear hunt program will be reinstated in eight wildlife areas known for having public safety issues due to bears.

The program, which was originally nixed in 1999, was revived last year by Queen’s Park. It aims to reduce the number of emergency calls where nuisance bears pose a threat to the public, especially young children.

“We can’t have bears in the playgrounds,” Ontario’s Natural Resources Minister David Orazietti told CTV Toronto on Friday. “There are no parts of Ontario where this is acceptable and it certainly shouldn’t be acceptable in northern communities and cities.”

Currently, the spring bear hunt is limited to local hunters. But the Ontario government says it would consider opening it to Americans if the program is not as effective as planned.

While the program is not popular with many animal rights groups and activists, including TV personality Bob Barker, many residents in northern communities support the hunt.

During the spring season, it’s not uncommon for schools up north to be placed in lockdown as a result of a nearby bear.

The animal has also been known to wander into residential areas, leaving residents trapped in their home.

“I’ve had a situation where the bear was trying to crawl through a window, where the mom and the daughter were calling from a phone in the bedroom, trying to get somebody to deal with the bear,” Gilles Bisson, the Ontario NDP MPP for Timmins-James Bay, told CTV Toronto on Friday.

Nearly 50 mayors and city councils across northern Ontario have passed resolutions calling for participation in the spring bear hunt.

But earlier this month, Animal Alliance of Canada and Zoocheck Canada filed an application for judicial review and a notice of constitutional question in an attempt to stop the program from starting.

According to the groups, the hunt is tantamount to animal cruelty, because they say mother bears may be killed, leaving their orphaned cubs to certain death, either by starvation or predators.

“This is the only large-game species that are hunted when the young are still dependent on their mothers and it is inevitable that cubs will be orphaned,” Julie Woodyer, of Zoocheck Canada, told The Canadian Press earlier this month.

The case will be heard in court on Tuesday.

With files from CTV Toronto’s Paul Bliss and The Canadian Press


Read more:

Ontario spring bear hunt to face court challenge from animal rights groups

A black bear roams the forest A black bear roams the forest near Timmins, Ont., on Sunday, May 27, 2012. (THE CANADIAN PRESS/ Nathan Denette)

Allison Jones, The Canadian Press
Thursday, April 17, 2014

TORONTO — Two animal rights groups are taking the Ontario government to court in an attempt to stop a spring bear hunt pilot program before it begins, alleging it amounts to animal cruelty.

Animal Alliance of Canada and Zoocheck Canada say mother bears will be killed during the hunt, leaving their orphaned cubs to starve or be killed by predators.

“The babies at this time are very small,” said Julie Woodyer of Zoocheck Canada.

“This is the only large game species that are hunted when the young are still dependent on their mothers and it is inevitable that cubs will be orphaned.”

The animal rights groups have filed an application for judicial review and a notice of constitutional question, which are set to be heard in court on April 29, just days before the start of the program. They hope the court will at least delay the start of the hunt until it can rule on their legal actions.

The regulation would be contrary to animal cruelty laws in the Criminal Code, said the groups’ lawyer David Estrin.

“In our view, reinstituting this program would be tantamount to the minister and the Ministry of Natural Resources either wilfully permitting bear cubs to suffer or failing to exercise reasonable care or supervision of the bear cub population,” he said.

“The Criminal Code prohibits causing or allowing animals to suffer. This program of the Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources will cause black bears to suffer.”

The pilot project to reinstate the spring bear hunt will start May 1 and run for six weeks in eight wildlife areas known for having the most public safety incidents involving bears.

“In northern Ontario it is not responsible for a provincial government to ignore the concerns of thousands of residents who are concerned about their public safety,” said Natural Resources Minister David Orazietti.

“We have young children who can’t go out for recess at their schools, teachers wearing bear whistles because their children are threatened.”

Nearly 50 mayors and city councils across northern Ontario have passed resolutions calling for their participation in the program, Orazietti said. Out of 95 wildlife management units in Ontario, the pilot program will be in eight, he said.

“Some people who are completely unaffected by this issue and whose children may be perfectly safe in the schools that they attend have no understanding of the implications and the safety challenges in communities in northern Ontario,” Orazietti said.

The hunt was cancelled in 1999 and then-natural resources minister John Snobelen said it had left thousands of cubs orphaned since hunters too often mistakenly shoot mother bears.

“Really, the only answer we came up with was to end the spring bear hunt,” he said at the time. “It’s the only acceptable way.”

Orazietti said the government has learned over the past 15 years that other strategies to reduce human-bear incidents have met “fairly limited success.”

“This has been a very, very thoughtful and strategic approach,” he said Thursday. “We’re not suggesting a return of the spring bear hunt of yesteryear.”

The animal rights groups say the ministry’s own scientists have found no link between the end of the spring bear hunt and human-bear incidents. Orazietti said “that’s not completely true.”

“Our scientists do recognize that there are other scientists and other groups that have indicated that bear hunts do in fact have an impact on population,” he said.

Terry Quinney, the provincial manager of fish and wildlife services for the Ontario Federation of Anglers and Hunters, said the spring bear hunt was for decades a valuable wildlife population management tool.

“In reducing the density and distribution of bears in the spring, particularly those older male bears, it is absolutely reducing the probability of dangerous encounters with people,” he said.

Hunters target the male bears, Quinney said, and there are ways they can distinguish male and female bears, especially using suspended bait.

“It’s not hard to imagine that if a food source is placed, for example, hanging from a tree, a bear in order to reach that food source is going to stand on its hind legs, making its genitalia very visible to a hunter,” he said.

Quinney also said there would be economic and social benefits to re-establishing the spring bear hunt in northern communities.

“Prior to the cancellation of the spring bear hunt in Ontario there were approximately 600 family-based businesses in northern and central Ontario that were involved in the spring bear hunt, for example providing guiding services for hunters,” he said.

“Revenues to northern and central Ontario on an annual basis were in excess of $40 million a year. All of those economic benefits have disappeared from Ontario.”

Read more:

VERY IMPORTANT! Please vote in the on line poll in the Toronto Sun to say NO to reviving the spring bear hunt in Ontario. The poll is on the bottom right of the home page here:

Montana black bear hunting season opens April 15

HELENA – Montana’s spring black bear hunting season opens April 15.

Hunters can buy black bear hunting licenses online at Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks license providers, or print a paper license application and mail it in to FWP. Licenses issued through the mail may take two weeks to process.

Spring black bear hunters should purchase their license by April 14. Black bear hunting licenses purchased after April 14 may not be used until 24 hours after purchase. Black bear hunters are limited to one black bear license a year.

All black bear hunters must successfully complete FWP’s bear identification test before purchasing a black bear license. Take the bear identification test online at the agency’s website.

Complete the training and test, and then present the printed on-line certificate to purchase a license. The training and test can also be obtained on paper, with a mail-in answer card, at FWP regional offices.

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

Photo Copyright Jim Robertson

The First Slugs and Other Signs of Spring

I’m getting pretty low on firewood, but not worry–Spring must be right around the corner. Today I saw the first turkey vulture of the season being chased by a pair of overprotective prospective raven parents, the slugs have awakened from their long winters’ nap and the ducks are back in the pond, preparing to nest.

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved

Text and Wildlife Photography ©Jim Robertson, 2013. All Rights Reserved