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A bow hunter in New Jersey has apparently killed a popular local black bear, Pedals. Wildlife lovers are outraged as the hunter has been reportedly bragging about the kill.

Pedals, the upright-walking bear, which once had 22,000 fans on a now-defunct Facebook page, was just one of 549 bears killed by hunters during a controversial expanded hunting season. Reaction was so negative on both sides of the issue that a Facebook page dedicated to the bear was shut down Saturday night. A new Facebook page, RIP Pedals The Walking Bear, posted a plea to "please be respectful of others."

Anger may have been provoked by the defunct site's post, which read, "The hunter who has wanted him dead for nearly three years had the satisfaction of putting an arrow through him, bragging at the station."

The New Jersey Division of Fish & Wildlife confirmed that it had pictures of an injured black bear brought into the Green Pond check station in Rockaway last week, but said it could not determine the identity of the bear. A statement posted by the division read:

"Upon arrival to check stations, bears are weighed and measured around the head. DNA samples are taken and a tooth is extracted to determine the bear's age. But without any prior scientific data taken from a bear, it is not possible to verify the identity of a bear that has been harvested."

It is believed that Pedals walked upright due to injuries to both front paws. Black bears are not endangered, and are found throughout the state of New Jersey. Native to the state, they were hunted indiscriminately following European colonization. The state says there are about 3,600 today, a sharp increase since the 1970s. Only one fatal attack by a bear has ever occurred in New Jersey's history. The victim was a 22-year old Rutgers University student who was hiking with a group of friends in Passaic County in 2014 when he was attacked.

State officials maintain that hunting is necessary to regulate the population of black bears in New Jersey, and has spent $9 million since 2000 on black bear management. However, state senator Raymond J. Lesniak has introduced a bill that would ban bear baiting and establish trash disposal rules that would reduce access to human food waste, as has been implemented in other areas with high bear populations. The bill would also eliminate the October and December bear hunting seasons.

In the State Assembly, four legislators are seeking to end hunting of black bears in New Jersey. They are Tim Eustace of Bergen County along with Grace Spencer, Raj Mukherji and Thomas Giblin, all of Passaic County.

Aspen, Colorado residents have gotten used to living with black bears in this tiny, high-altitude resort town. Trash receptacles must be bear-proof, doors are kept locked and food has to be kept away from decks and unattended vehicles. Bear sightings, even downtown, are not uncommon. The city has taken a progressive approach to bear management, avoiding the unnecessary death of bears and protecting its citizens and visitors. In 2015, the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Wildlife Services killed 3.2 million animals, including black bears, mountain lions, wolves and bobcats.

Meanwhile, fans of Pedals mourn the bear's loss. Posting on the Facebook page, Kelly Champan Cherhan wrote, "This is heartbreaking!!!!" Angela Lindsay Paulson added, "I lose sleep over this too." Michael Kenneth Watson commented, "So very upset, who shoots a handicapped bear? Why?"

At this time, the identity of the hunter has not been confirmed.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

By David Kirby

Do you live in a state that's a top killing ground for top predators?

A new analysis released by the Center for Biological Diversity found that Texas, Oregon, Minnesota and California are the states where the United States Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Wildlife Services killed the most black bears, mountain lions, wolves and bobcats in 2015.

Nationwide, Wildlife Services eradicated 731 bobcats, 480 black bears, 385 wolves and 284 mountain lions. It also killed 68,985 coyotes—almost 17,000 in Texas alone—and 3,109 foxes.

The program exterminated 3.2 million animals last year. Roughly half of those belonged to invasive species, but the other half were native to their regions.

The federal government created Wildlife Services in 1915 to kill predators that feed on livestock. Today, it offers its services not only to ranchers but also to fruit and vegetable producers that suffer damage from deer, birds and rodents and to timber companies that call on the agency to kill bears that strip bark from trees to reach insects and sap.

According to the Center for Biological Diversity, which has published an interactive map of state-by-state data, Texas was the deadliest state in 2015, with 609 bobcats and 23 mountain lions killed. That was followed by Oregon, with 193 black bears, 27 bobcats and 91 mountain lions; Minnesota, with 220 wolves, two bobcats and one black bear; and California, with 121 black bears, 80 mountain lions and 15 bobcats.

Nationwide, Wildlife Services eradicated 731 bobcats, 480 black bears, 385 wolves and 284 mountain lions. It also killed 68,985 coyotes—almost 17,000 in Texas alone—and 3,109 foxes.

Killing methods involved traps, snares, poisoning and firearms, including those deployed from helicopters and airplanes.

The vast majority of eliminated animals belonged to non-predator species, such as rodents, reptiles and birds.

But the taking of predators is the most problematic part, according to Michael Robinson, conservation advocate at the Center for Biological Diversity.

"There's been enormous advances in our understanding of the critical roles that predators play in maintaining the health and integrity of their ecosystems," he said. "Scientists are now finding very important connections between predators and the vegetation that their prey species rely on."

When wolf populations are culled, for example, elk have less fear of foraging on tree saplings that grow along streams. But when wolves return, elk tend to avoid those areas, "which allows the saplings to grow into fairly large trees that support migratory birds and beavers," Robinson said. "This blanket policy of destroying predators undermines the integrity and function of entire ecosystems. It defies science."

USDA spokesperson Lyndsay Cole defended the program.

"Of the 24 million animals that Wildlife Services encountered in 2015, 86 percent were chased away from the location where damage was being caused," Cole wrote in an email. "Of the three million animals euthanized, 89 percent were either invasive species ... or native blackbirds covered by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's blackbird depredation order." Some 711,000 blackbirds were killed in 2015.

"Lethal control is used only if nonlethal options have been unsuccessful," Cole wrote, "or if nonlethal tools and techniques are impractical or economically infeasible."

Brooks Fahy, executive director of the group Predator Defense, which has opposed Wildlife Services for more than 40 years, said state wildlife agencies also depend on the USDA to kill predators that prey on game for hunters.

"They're funded through sales of hunting licenses, so they try to artificially create high levels of species that hunters like to hunt," Fahy said. "But hunters kill the biggest, most robust animals while predators kill the weakest animals, keeping the gene pool strong by leaving the animals that are the healthiest and most productive."

Fahy said the numbers, including how many cubs die after their parents are killed, were underreported. Dogs and other domestic animals are also trapped or poisoned.

Both Robinson and Fahy said the agency has no government oversight and lacks transparency in its operations. Journalists, for example, are barred from witnessing culls.

"I have fought to implement changes at Wildlife Services for years and for years I have been met with resistance at every turn," Rep. Peter DeFazio, D-Ore., wrote in an email.

"Taxpayers are spending millions each year to fund a bloated and mismanaged government program ... that uses federal dollars on cruel and lethal animal population control techniques," he wrote. "The agency needs far stronger oversight to ensure that they are spending their federal dollars wisely, and reform is urgently needed."

This article was reposted with permission from our media associate TakePart.

Xsandra / Getty Images

Looking for ways to cut down on single-use plastic while grocery shopping? You may already have eco-friendly shopping bags, but bringing your own reusable produce bags is another easy swap.

According to the UN Environment Program, up to 5 trillion single-use plastic bags are used globally each year, and because of the material they're made from, most municipal recycling centers don't accept them (more on this below).

The most sustainable option is to skip the bag altogether. You can also make your own reusable produce bags out of old T-shirts. But if you'd rather purchase them new, here are our recommendations for the best reusable produce bags on the market today.

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