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CASH Courier > 2006 Spring Issue

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The C.A.S.H. Courier

ARTICLE from the Spring 2006 Issue

A FRIEND OF THE BEARS: STAN PABST

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 3,500 signatures!

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 quarrelling bears.

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 extinction.

“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 $6,000.

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 705-389-177

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