Conservationists Call on Interior Dpt. to Cancel Illegal Black Bear Hunt

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Washington, D.C. -- Today, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI), In Defense of Animals (IDA), the American Environment Foundation (AEF), and two individuals asked the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) of the U.S. Department of the Interior in a 14-page letter to cancel an illegal black bear hunt scheduled for Dec.1 and 2 in the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.

The letter includes substantive evidence that the FWS has failed to comply with proper procedures and has ignored its duties under federal law to evaluate the environmental impacts of the hunt. As part of a cover up, they note, the agency failed to reveal that the two black bear studies it relies on to justify the hunt both recommended that no hunt be allowed until and unless additional studies are conducted. The author of one study indicated that a bear hunt could exacerbate a loss of genetic diversity. According to these studies, the Refuge's bear population is already threatened by genetic concerns, as well as habitat destruction and fragmentation outside its bounds.

"There is no question that the hunt violates federal law, so we expect the FWS to cancel it immediately," said IDA Communications Director Kristie Phelps.

Bears have been protected in the Great Dismal Swamp since the Refuge was established in 1974.

James D. Parker, American Environment Foundation President stated, "Though the FWS claims to have authorized bear hunting in 1998, evidence documented in our submission demonstrates that the agency never legally approved a bear hunt."

"The FWS is engaged in an intentional game of hide and seek, withholding critical information about the Refuge's bears from the public, while seeking to implement an illegal hunt," said AWI Wildlife Biologist D.J. Schubert. "These bears must be protected to ensure their existence in the face of habitat loss and genetic decline."

AWI and AEF are headquartered in Va. and IDA is based in San Rafael, Calif.

Media Contacts:

D.J. Schubert, AWI, (202) 337-2332
Kristie Phelps (757) 423-0093