If these cruel traps were judged by the agony they inflict, they would never be justified.

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The Oregonian, 6/17/07

 

                                             Bear traps stir hunter to complain


SUMMARY: Timber companies contract to protect tree plantations from major damage
It was not the legality of the bear killings that bothered Gary Ziak, it was the unnecessary pain and suffering suggested by the remains.

Ziak, 69, is a second generation logger in Oregon's coastal mountains. He likes to add that he is a hunter, too.

 

Last week, after following some buzzards circling carrion, he came upon the hides of about 10 black bears. All had been legally killed by a contract hunter hired by timber companies who find the bears an expensive nuisance. The bear carcasses were scattered on the state's Jewell Meadows Wildlife Area, located east of Seaside, as is state policy.

 

All their valuable parts had been properly disposed of: their meat to food banks and their teeth, gall bladders and female reproductive organs delivered to the state wildlife laboratory in Corvallis for analysis.

What bothered Ziak was the way the black bears, including a couple of yearlings, were killed. The hunter had used a steel snare to grab the bears and hold them by a leg. After the 48 to 72-hour period allowed by law, the hunter would have returned and shot them in the head, Ziak said.

 

"There has to be measures taken where these bears are not taken in a trap," Ziak said. "Can you imagine anything being (trapped) in there two or three days?"

 

Ziak complained to his local newspaper, which published a story, and calls started pouring in to state authorities from readers as outraged as Ziak.

 

The longstanding practice of scattering the hides in the woods will now change. Instead of scattering the bear hides for coyotes and buzzards to feast upon, the hides will be buried, said Rick Klumph, North Coast Watershed district manager for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

 

"I agree it looks pretty gruesome. From a biological standpoint it makes sense," he said. "But, it looks bad, all these heads and fur and claws."

 

No plans exist to halt the killing of nuisance bears.

 

Contract trapping and killing of bears, cougars and coyotes is both legal and common in Oregon. Landowners can remove big game animals that damage their property, and the hunters can use methods that are illegal in sport hunting.

 

In the case of timberland owners, the annual hunt for bears is a rite of spring.

 

When black bears awaken from hibernation in late spring, they are hungry. One of their food sources is the inner bark of young trees. A single bear can tear into dozens of trees in one day, a fact that drives some timber owners crazy.

 

They hire hunters to either use hounds and tree the bears or bait the bears and use snare traps.

 

In 2006, 268 bears were killed in response to damage they caused, while another 14 were killed in the name of human safety , according to statistics from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife.

The estimated black bear population in Oregon is 25,000 bears.

 

Ziak said the hunting ought to be left to sport hunters, whom voters banned from hunting bears with dogs s in 1994. Still, sport hunters kill 1,100 or more bears most years, state records show.

 

For his efforts, Ziak now faces the possibility of a ticket for trespassing on a section of a state wildlife area that is closed to the public. He said he tried to turn himself in to the state police in Astoria this week, but no one was at the office. Klumph said no decision has been made on whether or not to issue Ziak a citation.

 

"They know where I live, but they haven't come and got me yet," Ziak said Friday. "I welcome a ticket. I'd like to take it to Salem, and tell 'em what I think."