Original article written by Dawn Trent, VP Friends of the Bears;
Photos courtesy of Friends of the Bears
Stan has lived with black bears for more than 20 years. He has fed and
sheltered them, protected the orphans and nursed the injured. In return
for his kindness he has received death threats, had property stolen, been
shot at more times than he can count, interrupted two attempts to burn
down his house, and on several occasions he discovered a rattlesnake in
his van. All this at the hands of hunters and poachers, and more often
than not, abetted by government employees.
Stan’s crusade on behalf of the much maligned black bear began in 1980,
when he discovered a small cub clinging precariously to a tree branch.
Stan observed the cub for 24 hours and when no female bear appeared, he
concluded that it was an orphan. He contacted the local Ontario Ministry
of Natural Resources (OMNR) and was bluntly told to back off, that since
it was hunting season the sow had no doubt been shot, and the cub was
serving as a decoy to attract other bears. Decoy be damned, Stan decided
to entice the cub from her perch, took her home, and cared for her until
she could fend for herself.
Bears are quick to differentiate between friend and foe, and soon they
began to visit the feeding station that Stan had established on his
property for wild geese and small animals. Soon it was not uncommon for
several black bears to share corn, bread, and sunflower seeds with geese,
raccoons, and squirrels.
During the ‘80s and early ‘90s, Stan and the bears pursued their
relationship in relative peace. There was poaching, but not on a grand
scale. Then, in 1992, Stan became aware of a growing number of orphaned
cubs as a result of the expanded “spring bear hunt” in Ontario.
While OMNR has little regard for any species, it has even less respect
for the black bear, the only large “game” species it allows to be hunted
in the spring.
According to reports provided by Animal Alliance of Canada in the
course of its battle against the spring hunt, hunters were encouraged to
lure bears to feeding stations (referred to as “bait sites”) with rotten
meat. When bears became accustomed to the food they returned repeatedly.
For the first four weeks of the spring season the bait sites were also
used to provide scent for the hunting dogs that chased, harassed and
cornered frightened bears. At the end of a hunt, if a bear was wounded,
the hunter might allow the dogs to tear the injured animal apart.
For the remaining weeks, the bait sites were reserved as shooting
galleries, primarily for Americans and other non-resident bear hunters who
wanted a guaranteed kill. Almost thirty percent of the bears killed were
female, and caring for small dependent cubs. When orphaned in the spring,
these tiny animals are killed by predators or starve to death.
In 1992, sickened by the practice of baiting and the sight of so many
orphaned cubs, Stan circulated a petition to the Parry Sound area calling
for the abolition of the spring bear hunt. To his amazement, he collected
Thus began the long battle to end the spring bear hunt in Ontario.
Stan’s cause was espoused by Globe and Mail columnist Michael Valpy, who
interviewed Stan and produced scathing comments concerning the hunt; by
Animal Alliance of Canada , as well as every humane society and wildlife
protection organization in the province.
Stan was now persona non grata as far as officialdom was concerned.
A wildlife biologist with MNR went so far as to threaten him when Stan
refused to stop feeding the bears. “One way or another,” he was told, “you
will stop feeding them!”
Poaching of bears on Stan’s property increased and complaints to MNR
went unheeded. Bears from other areas were relocated to Stan’s property,
causing problems because of incompatibility with resident bears. On more
than one occasion, Stan risked serious injury when he had to break up
MNR helicopters chased deer and moose from Stan’s property, enabling
hunters on neighboring concessions to shoot them. Blue heron nests were
destroyed and beaver houses dynamited. The CPP offered Stan no assistance.
When, in one night, eleven bears were slaughtered within yards of Stan’s
house, and he contacted the North Bay detachment of the OPP, he was told,
“Don’t get excited. It’s probably licensed hunters. When they shoot them
all, they will leave. It doesn’t take much to set you off.”
Stan noted the sergeant’s name and reported him to the Public
Complaints Commission. Three months later, he was asked by the
investigating officer to consider dropping his complaint against the
sergeant. Stan contacted his lawyer, who in turn consulted a friend in the
Solicitor General’s office. The result? Stan was advised, “It would be to
your advantage if you ever need police assistance in the future!”
The harassment continued. Shortly after he was interviewed by two
German reports and articles about Ontario’s spring bear hunt appeared in
German newspapers, Stan experienced difficulties with the local phone
service when he attempted to call friends in Germany. “Trouble on the
line,” he was told consistently, until finally he demanded that his calls
be sent via satellite.
Unfortunately, abolition of the spring bear hunt has done little to
stop poaching, which has been on the increase since 1995, due primarily to
the demands of Asian markets.
Bears are poached for their gall bladders, which are used in
traditional medicines in Taiwan, South Korea, China and parts of the US
and Canada. Bear gall bladders are sold for 3400 US in Taiwan, and for
over 10,000 in South Korea. Bear gall bladders and bile are used to treat
a variety of illnesses including fever, liver disease, diabetes and heart
disease. This market has already driven the Asian bear population to near
“The most arrogant and persistent poachers are CN and Hydro employees.
MNR and the OPP have known this and have done nothing. Stan is concerned
that is concerned that some bears have been killed by hunters prior to
hibernation. But he said that at least 20 will emerge and at least 9 cubs.
They’ll be hungry and the mothers will be ravenous. Fee costs are soaring.
Last year Stan operated on an annual budget of $5,000 and it will go up to
Stan is now worried about money, but soon he will have to worry about
saving bears as well. Stan’s favorite holiday is “Mother’s Day.” “It’s
hard to believe,’ says Stan, “but for years the female bears have brought
out their cubs on Mother’s Day!
You can get in touch with Stan Pabst at Friends of the
Bears, Box 17, RR. #1, Parry Sound, ON Canada P2A 2W7 or phone