Great Dismal Bear Hunt on National Wildlife

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Animal Advocates Decry Refuge Black Bear Hunt; Organizations Demand New Hunt Analysis

Washington, D.C. -- In an 8-page letter to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) delivered today, the Animal Welfare Institute (AWI) and In Defense of Animals (IDA) questioned the legality of the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge's black bear hunt. In addition to condemning the 2007 hunt which is set to begin tomorrow the groups requested that the FWS agree to the preparation of a new environmental impact review prior to deciding on whether to conduct a hunt in 2008.

"We are asking the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to take a step back and simply agree to subject the refuge bear hunt to a new environmental analysis as required by federal law to address the legal deficiencies inherent to the current hunt," states D.J. Schubert, AWI's Wildlife Biologist. "We believe the evidence, if fully disclosed and objectively evaluated, will demonstrate that this hunt is unnecessary and harmful to the refuge bear population."

The letter documented the legal inadequacies inherent to the current black bear hunt including the failure of the FWS to properly authorize bear hunting on the refuge and its woeful analysis of the environmental impacts of the hunt. Its current analysis provided virtually no substantive assessment of the impacts of the hunt in blatant violation of federal law.

The 2007 hunt is only the second year that bear hunting has ever been allowed on the refuge. A lawsuit to stop the 2006 hunt was unsuccessful but, fortunately, not a single bear was killed during the two-day hunt last year. The 2007 hunt may result in the death of up to 20 bears.

"Recreational hunting has no place on America's national wildlife refuges which should be sanctuaries for wildlife--not shooting arcades for hunters," explains Elliot M. Katz, DVM, IDA's President. "Considering the myriad threats to the Great Dismal Swamp bears as a result of off-refuge development pressures, the government should be protecting not persecuting these bears simply to provide a recreational opportunity for hunters."

A copy of the 8-page letter is available at http://www.vabear.org/letter or can be obtained by contacting D.J. Schubert of AWI via e-mail at dj@awionline.org.

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D.J. Schubert, AWI, (609) 334-1378
Kristie Phelps, IDA, (757) 763-0626

The Animal Welfare Institute, one of America's oldest animal welfare organizations in the nation, is dedicated to reducing the sum total of pain and fear inflicted on animals by humans.

In Defense of Animals is headquartered in San Rafael, CA and is dedicated to ending the exploitation and abuse of animals by raising the status of animals beyond that of mere property, and by defending their rights, welfare and habitat.