Jerrod Lile from Montana was recently elk hunting when he and his friend had a close encounter with a grizzly. “All of a sudden my buddy was running toward me.” Lile said. “I looked behind him and saw a grizzly running right at us. I pulled my pistol and was ready to fire when the bear was less than 10 yards away. Thankfully, the bear veered off at the last second. It was a close call.”
Stories like this one are becoming all too familiar, so more hunters are packing a sidearm when they venture into the woods.
Most states that have done studies on black bears recently indicate that bear numbers are rising. Many indicate that mountain lion populations are also increasing. Wolf and coyote numbers are also rising. However, solving the problem is very complicated.
“In many parts of the country the only way predator numbers can be reduced is to allow more hunting,” explained Dr. Dave Samuel, former wildlife management professor at West Virginia University. “Grizzly bears, black bears and wolves are hot issues for the anti-hunters, and even though science indicates that predators need to be thinned in many parts of the country, animal rights groups don’t really base their opinions on science.”
Of Dogs and Cats
Bears aren’t the only predators causing problems. Wolves and mountain lions are also a growing issue. In Alaska, many residents are having run-ins with wolves. Dogs have been taken off their leashes while their owners were walking them. As a result, Alaska has contemplated taking packs of wolves out by sharpshooting them from helicopters. Wolves are a growing problem in the West and the war between animal rights groups and wildlife management groups continues.
In states like California where mountain lions aren’t legally hunted, there have been several lion attacks on people during the past decade. As a result, their numbers are increasing and so are the number of bad encounters with people.
“Anywhere predators can’t be hunted their numbers often rise quickly,” Samuel stated. “As they lose their fear of humans, they don’t have any problem walking into someone’s backyard and taking a dog or cat.” If a mountain lion or grizzly encountered a person instead of running off like they used to, they often get too close for comfort—or attack.
Mountain lions are heading east. “Mountain lions are no longer just a Western animal. Many eastern states are seeing more evidence that mountain lions are roaming around,” Samuel said. Sightings of mountain lions have occurred in Michigan, Wisconsin and other states recently.
“Mountain lions head east because there are so many deer and turkeys in the eastern United States and catching a meal is easy. Bobcat numbers are also increasing in the eastern United States.”
Anti-hunters loudly voice their opinions and hunters need to start doing the same. We also need to protect ourselves when we are in the field. Hunters spend a lot of time in the woods and the chances of encountering a bear or mountain lion is higher when you spend a lot of time in their living space. You might think that if you carry a sidearm you are safe, but that might not be the case.
Carrying pepper spray might be a better option. Steve Kovach, a bear biologist based in Alaska, says pepper spray is a great option.
“I’ve had many close encounters with bears,” said Kovach. “Spray does a great job of deterring an attack because bears breathe it in and it gets in their eyes. Often shooting a bear or predator with a gun just gets them worked up.
Hunt safe, voice your opinion at the polls and, of course, hunt and trap predators if it’s legal to do so in your neck of the woods.