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Three Legged Bear KIlled

Needless Killing of Three-Legged Bear Sanctioned by NCWRC

By Bill Lea

     In November 2011, a small bear with its right leg dangling by only an outer layer of flesh was observed in a Western North Carolina community.  A subsequent spring sighting revealed the injured part had dropped off and the remaining stump appeared completely healed.  Feeling sorry for the undernourished bear, well-meaning construction workers fed the little bear – definitely a bad idea!  Eventually the small bear began crawling into cars and investigating homes for food.  Something had to be done.  The local North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) biologist suggested killing the bear, but instead a group of folks from the community began searching for a sanctuary where the disabled bear might live in an open natural-habitat enclosure.  After eliminating several options, a well-known accredited facility in Western North Carolina became a strong possibility.  However, the wildlife biologist and his superiors decided it would be in the best interest of the bear to simply kill him.

The NCWRC has a policy of not relocating so called “nuisance bears.”  In defense of the agency and as a bear expert I agree with this policy in most cases.  Moving a “nuisance bear” usually means another area inherits the problem and/or the bear is killed while returning home through unfamiliar territory.  Although the policy is basically sound, it should not be the law.  Every case should be examined on its own merits and when a non-lethal alternative is available it should be considered.  This young three-legged bear could have been easily trapped and moved to the natural-habitat enclosure where he could have served as an invaluable educational tool in illustrating how feeding wild bears has negative consequences.  Instead the NCWRC decided the little bear was better off dead than in any wildlife sanctuary.  Lieutenant Governor Walter Dalton personally called and asked the local wildlife biologist to work on behalf of the bear in allowing him to be moved to a permanent sanctuary.  The Lt. Governor’s request went all of the way to the NCWRC Executive Director’s office but was denied – death remained the agency’s only solution.  The NCWRC ‘s power is absolute.   Evidently the agency has no one else to answer to other than its own hierarchy.  When management of the community asked if an exception might be made per the Lt. Governor’s request, the wildlife biologist responded with these words in an e-mail:  “There has not been any communication between the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and the Governor’s Office concerning this bear.”  Left with no apparent alternative, the tiny three-legged bear was shot and killed.

Struggling to restore my confidence and trust in the very agency given the responsibility of exercising prudent management of our wildlife resources, I called a NCWRC supervisory biologist to discuss the matter.  I explained how there was a viable alternative in moving this bear to a well respected natural-habitat facility where he could have provided a long lasting educational service.  People would have come to see the three-legged bear and could have learned from a well-written interpretive sign that this bear was spending the rest of his life in captivity because well-meaning people fed him and he subsequently lost his fear of humans. Tying into the old adage “that a fed bear is a dead bear” would have provided the perfect educational opportunity to convince people they should never feed wild bears. Much to my shock and disappointment the NCWRC supervisor replied, “The ONLY way there could be an educational message in this case is IF the bear was actually DEAD.”  He insisted that the bear had to die for there to be any valid lesson. He went on to claim that everybody within the agency, “all the way to the Executive Director’s office” believed, without exception, “the bear would be better off dead” than in an open-air natural habitat enclosure or any wildlife sanctuary. He continued to stress that death was a much better alternative and would be in the best interest of ANY bear not born in captivity. (Subsequently the NCWRC claimed the bear had to be destroyed because he was too comfortable around people. Yet on the other hand they stated, his life could not be spared and moved to the sanctuary because he would be too uncomfortable around people viewing him.)  Aside from killing the bear, the incredulous response from the supervisory biologist is the first of two primary reasons I decided to go public with this story.  I totally disagree with NCWRC’s philosophy that DEATH is the best answer.

The second reason I decided to go public with the story is because of the flagrant and self-serving distortion of the truth presented in the e-mail written by the local wildlife biologist to the community’s staff that led directly to killing of the bear.  The NCWRC later confirmed the employee had spoken directly with Lt. Governor Walter Dalton about the matter, even though the biologist wrote, “There has not been any communication between the NC Wildlife Resources Commission and the Governor’s Office concerning this bear.”  Should we not expect the truth and a certain level of integrity from our state employees?  Are there no consequences for a deliberate distortion of the facts by an agency representative, especially when it played a significant role in the taking of a bear’s life?  The NCWRC seems completely unwilling to address this issue.

This handicapped bear should not have been killed.  He should have been moved to the very same facility where in the mid 1990s, NCWRC granted permission for a “nuisance bear” from Minnesota to be relocated in an effort to save that bear’s life.  I believe the general philosophy currently within the agency that death is the only answer along with the serious distortions of the truth by the local wildlife biologist lead to the TOTALLY UNECESSARY killing of this bear. In addition, we lost a tremendous opportunity to teach and to ultimately reduce future human-bear conflicts.
Obviously education needs to play a much greater role in teaching people how to co-exist peacefully with bears, especially as more people move into bear habitat.  Is death the only answer when people act inappropriately and create so called “nuisance bears?”  Bears are killed for what people THINK they will do, not for what bears ACTUALLY do.  The policies of the NCWRC exemplify and reinforce this fact.   Yes, killing is the simple, expedient and inexpensive solution but it is not always the right answer.  I seek a change in the agency’s general mindset that so often dictates “death” as the easy solution to so many complex wildlife issues.  There were viable alternatives for the tiny three-legged bear, but his life would not be spared by the NCWRC.  We should expect a little more thought and consideration from the NCWRC – the agency given the task of providing prudent stewardship of our wildlife resources.   The culture of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission needs to change and we, the people, can make it happen if enough voices are heard.  It is time to stand-up and demand more from our state wildlife officials.  Please send your comments to gordon.myers@ncwildlife.org (North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission Executive Director) and governor.office@nc.gov  (North Carolina Office of the Governor).  Thank you.


News Stories

NC Activists Angered by Killing of 3-Legged Bear

Yancey County Bear Killed View at Youtube

Yancey County Bear Killed WLOS

Alternatives existed for this little bear

Euthanizing bear was a viable solution

Wildlife agency kills ‘Three-Legged Bear’


Meeting with NCWRC

Posted by RiseNC on November 28, 2012

North Carolina Resource Wildlife Commission (NCWRC) has agreed to meet with individuals who were angered in regards to the killing of the three legged bear in Burnsville, NC.  The meeting will be held at the NCWRC on November 30, 2012 at 1:30 pm.
Agenda for the Meeting
1. Wildlife Advocates Voice in WRC Regulations & Changes – John Edwards
2. Rehabilitation of Bear Cubs – Cheryl Ward
3. Fox Hunt Pens – Millie Bowling
4. Deer Rehabbing Update – Jo Henderson & Leslie Hayhurst
5. The Three Legged Bear – Beverly Hammond & Bill Lea
Following  is basically the information I presented in my opening remarks at a recent meeting with Gordon Myers, Executive Director of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission and his staff.  We had a very good turnout of 9 individuals, representing wildlife advocates and activists from across the state, who presented various concerns to Mr. Myers and his staff.  Many of us in NC who value wildlife from a different perspective, feel the NCWRC and commissioners will consider “the inevitable changes and attitudes” toward wildlife in NC that is already drastically evolving and will continue to change.  Our concerns are being sent to all NCWRC commissioners and eventually to all elected officials.

Below are four of the topics many who value wildlife including responsible hunters feel need to be fully examined.
         Communication and representation with NCWRC and commissioners(found in the attachment above)
         Eliminating the horrific practice of Coyote and Fox Penning
         Open season on coyotes and the tragic killing of 4 red wolves in Eastern NC (Two lawsuits have be brought to stop this action and develop a new plan)
         Deer and other wildlife rehab issues
Hope you will respect our efforts to have a voice in the management of the North Carolina wildlife we “all own” and value.
John Edwards
I would like to express my appreciation to Gordon Myers and other NCWRC officials for the opportunity to hopefully better connect the values of those of us who are wildlife advocates with those involved in hunting and value wildlife from a different perspective.
Although we are not a powerful special interest lobby or have political clout, we do represent some of the 90 percent of the 5 million in NC that that are not licensed hunters. As a significant part of the large percentage of the population of this state, we feel advocates for wildlife in NC, should hold our government agency (NCWRC) accountable to the people they serve and have a voice in the management of the wildlife we “all own”.
**Specific methods of communication and input need be explored that will fully recognize the concerns of wildlife advocate by NCWRC management officials. This is especially important regarding some of the controversial issues that have been clearly identified during the past few months. District meetings held by NCWRC are not a part of the solution since most wildlife advocates (non-hunters) are intimidated and uncomfortable at these discussions.
** Better publicity regarding “special issues” that could have an impact on the wildlife (we all own and value) needs to be provided to all media outlets in every county in NC along with press releases to all organizations who identify with wildlife. In addition, instructions regarding how to make comments to NCWRC should be clearly explained.
**Commissioners should not just be appointed, as often done politically, but consideration should be given to including some representatives from those who are wildlife advocates. It is recommended, a couple of “at large commissioners” be selected from both men and women who represent the 90 percent of
population in NC who deserve a voice in issues regarding the wildlife we “all” own and value.
***The most predicable reality in today’s society is change! Adaptation is not an option, it is essential for any organization. Many of our tradition rights have been proved to be wrong as past history points out. Hopefully, “doing the right thing” regarding wildlife, rather than for special interest, will be carefully considered.
***Wildlife education should be prioritized, not just as a benefit for hunters, but as a part of Educational Wildlife Outreach that is now being provided by individuals and organizations in Western North Carolina.
John Edwards
Director of Mountain Wildlife Days
WNC Wildlife Outreach Coordinator
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