Education is alternative to killing more bears

To the Editor:

The changes in the five-year black bear management plan currently being proposed by the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission puts major emphasis on killing and relaxed hunting regulations of our valued bears with little or no options dedicated to bear education as a viable alternative. Killing continues to be the preferred wildlife management route pursued by NCWRC officials with little emphasis on addressing the public’s role in creating wildlife issues. I, along with many other North Carolina wildlife advocates, oppose the “killing of more black bears management philosophy” and feel major consideration should also be given to alternatives such as educating the public regarding their role in living safely with black bears. 

The American Bear Association is dedicated to promoting the welfare of the black bear through education. It would be prudent to examine their philosophy, which many black bear advocates would like to see emphasized in North Carolina. They state, “We need to live with our wildlife neighbors as more people move into their habitat. A tolerant attitude is particularly critical for those living in bear country. Careless human behavior can create so-called ‘nuisance bears’ and too often bears are shot unnecessarily.” 

Despite the strong “kill more bears” recommendations by NCWRC officials, regarding management, many wildlife advocates specifically oppose extending the bear hunting season and increasing bag limits. This proposal fails to address positive education factors that could also have an impact on undesirable bear-human contact. The majorities of the general public feel bears are an important part of our mountain landscape and enrich our quality of life.

Where employed, black bear education has proved to drastically decrease black bear incidences. Organizations already exist in North Carolina which are qualified to assist communities and individuals regarding how to follow “bear safe” practices that have successfully reduced incidences and contact with our black bear neighbors. By educating the public regarding food sources, pets and behavior of black bears, issues can be dramatically reduced. 

As a concerned full-time resident who lives in black bear country, I see far less black bear activity and few incidences that call for such a radical killing of more bears. I would like to urge NCWRC management officials and our legislators to seriously consider education opportunities rather than just more killing as an option. Many feel the black bear is a highly valued symbol of the wildness and is a fascinating part of mountain living. In a variety of positive ways, bears touch the lives of residents, visitors and part-time homeowners in Western North Carolina. For many, educating the public regarding how to live safely in bear country is certainly an alternative that should be considered in the NCWRC five-year black bear management plan. 

John Edwards 

Director of Mountain Wildlife Days


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