Born Free USA Blog
by Will Travers,
Chief Executive Officer
What can you say about a big-hearted bloke who has rescued dolphins, tigers, elephants and more and whose parents once helped a lion cub from a department store by caring for him in their backyard and engineering his rightful return to Africa? You can safely say that he's got great animal instincts! In 1984, Will Travers joined his parents — "Born Free" film stars Virginia McKenna and Bill Travers — to form what became The Born Free Foundation. With knowledge, passion and compassion dripping from his every word, Will's blogs are sure to make you embrace our crusade to Keep Wildlife in the Wild ®.
Hunters often claim to be conservationists. Prove it.
Nevada has an estimated 200 to 300 black bears hugging a small amount of suitable habitat along the eastern Sierra, most being on Lake Tahoe’s eastern shore. By any reasonable standard the species is, at state level, endangered. But sport hunters want to hunt them, and the Nevada Department of Wildlife staff has been directed by the state wildlife commissioners to allow both a spring and fall hunt.
Continent-wide, American black bears are not an endangered species, it is true, but endangerment is an incremental process and by any reasonable standard a population of between 200 and 300 animals is very low, indeed. At the state level it certainly is a species at risk.
And to make a bad situation absurdly worse, the region involved is already a hotbed of bear poaching. By “bear” I mean the black bear, of course, the grizzly bear having been quite totally eliminated from the entire region many decades ago. If this population were to be targeted a well-funded, nefarious poaching syndicate, watch out. They could all go.
Bears have recently been being poached in the Lake Tahoe region, with some estimating that, conservatively, 30 have been taken so far this year. Poachers are criminals, and their activities are not reported. Legalizing hunting exacerbates an already bad situation by potentially providing legal cover for the poachers. There is a massive, black market for bears’ gall bladders, used by some for traditional medicinal cures. Poachers kill the bear, quickly remove the gall bladders, and leave behind the corpses to rot.
Which brings me back to the sport hunters. If they are truly conservationists they should be joining the rest of us in urging the state of Nevada to continue protecting its small population of black bears. That, make no mistake, is what real conservationists are doing.