Black bears normally run from humans. The attack
by a black bear on a human infant was an unfortunate freak occurrence.
Yet as aberrant as it appears, it should be vigorously investigated.
Lurking in the shadows of the tragedy is the Bureau
of Wildlife (BOW) of the NYS Department of Environmental Conservation.
Their management of "game" species for deliberate increase
via the manipulation of public lands, and the setting of seasons
and bag limits now should come under public scrutiny. Those who
make a study of "wildlife management" have known for
years that BOW is the cause of "human-wildlife conflicts," and
now with Esty Schwimmer’s death, that phrase has been taken to
the extreme, and can no longer be tolerated.
What has been kept a secret for too long is that
our wildlife management agencies manage wild animals into high
populations for profit. They manage wildlife for hunting permit
fees and excise taxes on hunting weapons. Those monies never leave
the Bureau to benefit the general public, but are used to perpetuate
hunting and the existence of the Bureau.
Little does BOW want that fact known to a public
that believes they are the guardians of wildlife. In the wake of
Esty Schwimmer’s death, an urgent investigation is needed to see
if wildlife management itself may have played a role in her death.
Simplistically calling for more hunting is merely to gray out what
should be black and white.
Managing wildlife to be hunted deliberately and necessarily
increases populations of hunted species. That in turn inconveniences
people, causes crop depredation, and places the public and wildlife
at risk of injury or death.
Hunting creates other types of problems which may
have had a role: The killing of large female "trophy" bear
leaves youngsters without an elder to teach them the way of the
world. It takes time for a bear to learn from his or her elder
to harvest food, find water, and avoid danger from humans.
BOW works without public scrutiny on wildlife management
areas throughout the state. They create ideal habitat conditions
primarily for those species managed for hunting. Sullivan County,
where the little girl was killed, has two of the largest wildlife
management areas in the state. The Bashakill is 2,213 acres and
the Mongaup Valley is almost 12,000 acres of prime bear-growing,
deer-growing habitat. BOW terms habitat manipulation "habitat
A BOW report details a management technique to ensure
a continuing supply of bears whose numbers dwindle after hunting.
It suggests delaying the onset of bear hunting by one week after
the start of deer hunting. Managers report that it gives the mothers
a chance to den with the cubs, ensuring that the males will be
the more likely sex to be shot. That’s good for the trophy hunters
who are looking for large black bears, and it allows mom to live
to bear more young. It is precisely what BOW does.
BOW profits from big game permits and from excise
taxes on weapons used to kill bear and deer; they profit from bear
chasing with dog packs. In fact, from July through October, they
permit hunters to chase bears with packs of dogs, sending the bears
across roads, into towns, and onto private properties. There have
been documented car-bear collisions as a result of "bear chasing." They
profit from taxidermy, they profit from fees paid to them by private
hunt operations that do their own management for bear and other
trophy species. They even "regulate" the sale of bear
body parts. This bureau has turned a deaf ear and a blind eye to
the public’s concern over depredation, collisions, nuisance, injury
and even death. They have certainly been thoroughly callous when
it comes to the wild animals who endure so much misery.
It is not unlikely that with the severe drought bears
are desperate for food and water. If BOW’s habitat manipulation
has unexpectedly been altered by climate, their funds should be
used to provide food and water stations both for the sake of the
bears and to keep the bears from having to wander far and raid
summer resorts. Not to do so is irresponsible.
Wildlife Watch would like to see an investigation
by the NYS Legislature into BOW’s management of bears. If it is
found that it has played a role in the death of the child, then
this bureau, even the State must be held accountable.