A Victory for Wolves and Coyotes in Idaho!

We have some good news from Idaho this afternoon—the Bureau of Land Management cancelled a permit allowing an anti-wildlife organization to conduct a “predator derby” on more than three million acres of public lands over three days every year for five years, beginning Jan. 2, 2015.

Up to 500 hunters would have been allowed to participate, claiming prizes for predators, including wolves, killed on BLM, U.S. Forest Service and private land. Wolves were removed from the endangered species list in 2011 following many years of recovery efforts in central and eastern Idaho, where public lands are supposed to provide refuge in the face of aggressive hunting and trapping in Idaho. 

For the initial hunt last year, applicants failed to apply for a BLM permit in time, but the hunt went forward, with prizes offered on Forest Service and private land. This year, immediately after the special recreation permit was approved, a coalition of conservation groups filed a federal lawsuit alleging the BLM failed to include a necessary Environmental Impact Statement.

News of BLM’s decision for 2015 came from an attorney with the U.S. Department of Justice, who is representing the BLM, just as attorneys for the conservation groups were preparing to file a major brief to stop this year’s hunt.

The cancelling of this hunting derby permit is a step in the right direction and we’re thrilled that Idaho’s wildlife will be able to live in relative peace this holiday season.

We are also glad to see that after 90,000 public comments protesting the hunting derby, the BLM has finally been forced to admit that killing contests are in no way appropriate for public land use…although the delay with this conclusion is further proof that the BLM is a mismanaged and corrupt federal agency, which only puts the protection of wildlife and the environment first when threatened with legal action.

Cheers to Democratic New Jersey Senator Cory Booker for announcing his transition to a vegan diet! Booker, who has long been a vegetarian and has built a reputation as an animal advocate, took to social media to share his decision to give veganism a chance this holiday season and has received an outpouring of support from the vegan community. 

Booker turned to a veggie-based diet almost 20 years ago and explained his decision on a recent web forum, writing “I was a competitive athlete back then and wanted to see what could take my body to the next level, also I was reading everything I could about food, where it came from, what impact it had both on me and my world. So in 1992, I decided to experiment, to try it for three to six months. And WOW! When I did my athletic performance took off, I felt so much better and it comported with other values and ideas I was exploring at the time, so I decided that this is what is best for me. It was a very personal decision.”

When Booker took office as a New Jersey Senator last year, he also became the one of the very few openly vegetarian lawmakers (come out, come out, wherever you are, closeted green-eaters!) serving in the Senate today, and now he’s the only openly vegan Senator. He has also placed environmental issues at the forefront of his political agenda and has spoken out against the negative impact animal farming has on the future of our planet.

We’re thrilled that Booker has decided to be very open about his dietary decisions and happy he’s choosing to go vegan…especially during World Vegan Month! To show our support for his decision and to help him with the transition, we’re sending the Senator a vegan starter kit complete with our starter guide, vegan restaurant guide, and other helpful handouts…all of which are available on our website right here.

JEERS to the 10th grade teacher at Columbia High School in Nampa, Idaho who killed and skinned a rabbit in front of a classroom full of students. The demonstration started with the teacher breaking the rabbit’s neck to kill it, followed by her skinning and carving the rabbit up for cooking, reasoning that she was showing the kids how their food is produced. 

It should go without saying that there is never an instance where an educator should advocate for the slaughter of a living being. The classroom is not a slaughterhouse—there are plenty of other methods to teach students about food rather than transporting a poor helpless creature to class to be used as some educational experiment.

If you want to show kids where their food comes from, take them on a trip to see the lots of cows standing around in their own waste. Show them how many antibiotics are required. Show them getting “processed” through extremely stressful means…both on factory farms as well as “free-range” ranches. Show them the cramped chicken coops of the diseased, dying, and crippled birds. 

If you want to give kids a real lesson about where the food most of them eat comes from, it isn’t going to be from killing a rabbit in classroom…it’s going to be by opening their eyes to the destruction animal farming produces on a daily basis and encouraging them to choose a cruelty-free, plant-based lifestyle. 


Respect bears, don’t fear them

By Nicole Rivard

Cheers to the Connecticut Association of Conservation and Inland Wetlands Commissions (CACIWC) for hosting a workshop on “Co-existing with black bears in Connecticut” during its 37th annual meeting and environmental conference held on Nov. 15 in Wallingford.

Felicia Ortner, a Connecticut master wildlife conservationist and a bear enthusiast who founded The Bear Reality educational program, educated attendees about bears by providing information about their life cycle, winter dens, preferred food and habitats, dispelling misunderstandings about them and offering advice on what to do on the rare occasion one does encounter a bear. 

“As humans we have a tendency to hate and want to get rid of something we don’t know about and we don’t understand,” Ortner said. “So I’m hoping that I can introduce you to the real things about bears, because there are so many myths out there, and maybe with that understanding you like them a little bit more and hopefully want to do what you need to do to co-exist with them.”

Ortner, who has been studying bears for 30 years, blames Hollywood for perpetuating myths about bears and making them look like villains on the big screen by portraying them as beasts of the forests. She even showed covers of reputable magazines such as Time and National Geographic depicting bears baring their teeth, and then revealed that the bears on the covers were all Hollywood bears, trained to bare their teeth, a behavior that is natural to felines, not bears. 

A behavior that is natural to bears is eating beech nuts, hickories and acorns, so they require forests with mature nut trees. “Today Connecticut is about 60 to 65 percent forested with a mature forest of 60 to 100 years, which is kind of amazing considering we are probably the fourth most densely populated state in the country,” Ornter said. 

The majority of Connecticut’s black bears (Ortner expects about 400) reside in the forests of the northwest part of the state. But there was a time when no black bears roamed the forests of Connecticut.

In the early 1600s and throughout the 1700s and 1800s, 8o percent of the state’s land was used for agriculture. The agricultural boom, compounded with limitless bounties on animals that posed a threat to settlers such as wolves, black bear and mountain lions, caused many of the native species to be extirpated from the state. The last black bear was killed in Goshen in 1840. 

Fortunately for the black bears, in 1903 Connecticut became the second state to start practicing forest management and it began to buy up areas just for that purpose. Eventually as forests recovered, and after a 100-year absence, black bears were once again seen roaming around the state in the northwest corner. “Then into the 1980s we started to see more sightings. We started to see females with cubs and bears around denning season. This meant that a permanent population was of bears reestablishing in the state,” Ortner said.

Now that they are back, Ortner, like Friends of Animals, believes with education, humans and bears can co-exist without conflict. She explained that since 1900 there have been 66 killings of humans by black bears in the wild in all of North America. “That’s about one out of every 1 million black bear will kill a human. Compared to one out of 18,000 humans that commit homicide,” Ortner said.

She provided the following advice to attendees to avoid conflict with bears.

“If you like to camp, keep camp sites clean. Use bear safe containers to keep your food in. Dispose of garbage properly. Don’t keep anything in tents that can attract bears such as food, wrappers, or even the clothes that you cooked in that day. Bears have an incredible sense of smell and they can smell that you cooked fish earlier that day. They can actually smell if you cooked a fish a week earlier.” 

“When hiking, always travel in groups if possible and be aware of what is around you. That is the best advice I can give anybody. You don’t want to surprise wildlife. Just like we get startled, if someone surprises us, we overreact… wildlife does the same thing. They overreact to the situation because they have been startled. If you do encounter a bear or see a bear in the distance, make noise to let the bear know you are in the area. Most of the time once they know you are in the area they will run away. If they stay in the area you want to increase your distance from the bear, you should always be stay at least 50 meters from the bear. You can walk away slowly.

“Carry a deterrent, like an air horn or a pepper spray. Pepper spray is what you are going to need to fend off a bear in the rare occasion you may need to.”

“Look for bear signs—overturned rocks and logs, bear scat, tracks…remember bears have five toes like we do… bite or claw marks on trees, bark stripping. You might see some hair caught on trees from where a bear might have rubbed up against it.” 

“In bear encounters, bears might become defensive. A lot of people have interpreted this as aggressive behavior. It’s not really aggressive; it’s basically behavior that is saying, ‘I am really afraid.’ They might make some noises that will let you know you are too close, like teeth clacking, and they will expel air. They are saying ‘back up, go away, you are frightening me.’ They also might do a bluff charge where they will lunge forward, slap the ground and expel air—it’s extremely frightening but they are generally doing it to make you back up. They have no intention of having contact with you.”

“Brown and black bears act differently. Brown bears grew up in an environment where when they had to protect themselves they had to stand and fight. This is when you want to play dead. If a brown bear is going to approach you it’s feeling you are a threat. You want to lay on the ground and make no sound or movement. It will realize you aren’t a threat and leave you alone. 

On the other side, with black bears, you want to stand your ground. You do have to let them know that you are not something that is on their meal plan for that day. This is extremely rare a black bear will approach a person in this predatory way. If they do you don’t want to play dead. You need to stand your ground and scare them off. Hopefully you have your air horn or pepper spray. One good shot with the pepper spray in the nose and that’s probably all it’s going to take for the bear to realize it doesn’t want you. 

“Never get between a mother bear and her cubs. It’s attributed more to brown bears and grizzlies. Black bears will climb trees when they are in danger and it’s what they teach their cubs as soon as they come out of the dens in the spring.”

“If you live in an area with bears, keep your garbage secure. If you compost don’t put meat or fruits out there that will attract bears. If you can after use clean and store your grills. Don’t store your pet food or bird seed outside or in screened in areas. And if you feed your pets outside like on the back porch make sure when they are done clean that area up. Also, birdfeeders are one of the biggest problems and attractants to bears.”

In conclusion, Ortner pointed out that about 80 percent or more of encounters between humans and bears can be avoided if we remove or secure what is actually attracting them. 

“Living with bears is possible if we understand a little bit more about them and if we understand what’s attracting them,” Ortner said. “If you understand them and how they tick, you can figure out what to do, maybe slight changes you need to make, to coexist with them. I hope people learn through the education I do that to respect bears, not fear them, and that they will work to help create a place where we can co-exist with bears.”