Congressman Announces Plan to End Bear Baiting

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A Virginia Congressman has announced his intention to pass legislation that would ban bear hunting using bait on all federal lands. According to many state wildlife officials, baiting is needed to help control bear populations.

According to the Associated Press, Representative Jim Moran (D-Arlington, Virginia) plans to introduce the legislation in 2003. Moran claims he will pursue either a standalone bill or an amendment to a spending bill.

Currently, the U.S. Department of Interior defers to state wildlife agencies on such matters. As a result, hunting bear using baiting is allowed on federal lands in nine states. These states are Alaska, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming. The proposed legislation would set a dangerous precedent by disrupting the cooperative efforts between federal and state wildlife authorities.

Moran has the support of animal rights groups including the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the nation?s largest anti-hunting organization.

In 1996, HSUS and other anti?s tried to ban bear baiting in Idaho and Michigan, but voters rejected the proposal.

Leading bear biologists from the states also oppose the ban.

Karen Noyce, a bear researcher with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said it would be difficult to hunt bears in the state's woody terrain without using bait. She goes on to say that bear baiting has helped to keep the population in check.

Population controls, including baiting, have helped cut down on crop damage and other nuisance problems caused by bears, said Dave Evenson, the state deer and bear specialist with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

The U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance is working with bear hunting organizations in Michigan and Wisconsin to unite other bear hunting groups across the United States in opposition to the proposed bill.

"I can promise Congressman Moran that sportsmen will be ready for a vigorous defense when Congress reconvenes in January," said Bud Pidgeon, U.S. Sportsmen's Alliance president.