Skip to comments.T.R. Should Have Shot That Darned Cub
Posted on 12/10/2003 5:06:44 PM PST by fight_truth_decay
It all started when a hunting party that included Teddy Roosevelt killed a sow bear, only to discover afterward that she had a cub. When one of the hunters raised his rifle to dispatch the orphan in order to spare the poor creature a slower death by starvation, exposure or predation, T.R. intervened, commuted the sentence, and the cub was led off, presumably to a zoo. This compassionate gesture is better known today than any of President Roosevelt's executive decisions, treaties or other accomplishments while in offlce thanks to a toymaker.
It seems the sparing of the bear cub was widely reported in the press. (It must have been what the papers call "a slow news day.") In any case, the public responded emotionally to what it perceived as a great, humane act of Christian charity. The story, as the newsies say, "had legs." It even made headlines in Europe, where a German maker of toy stuffed animals, named Gund, decided to capitalize on the incident and sent a shipment of its stuffed bears to the United States with a label, describing them as "Teddy Bears." The rest is history. Your kids and mine all went to sleep cuddling their Teddy Bears and even the famous talking bear, Winnie-the-Pooh, is often referred to in that fashion.
So began a parade of anthropomorphic mammals, birds, fish and even a rodent named Mickey. It also marked the start of a lot of misguided empathy for wild creatures and even farm animals, bordering on maudlin impracticality. At the extreme end of these misplaced concerns are people who get more excited about whether chickens are "free-range" instead of in small cages than they do about babies with AIDS. In the middle are the ethical vegetarians, people who won't eat veal and those who oppose hunting because they feel sorry for the animals.
This brings us back to questions of hunting, what is and is not humane and even what is and is not "sporting." During the Nov. 4 balloting on various public questions, a group called Maine Citizens for Fair Bear Hunting was quietly collecting names for a petition to put a proposal on next year's ballot to ban bear hunting with bait, traps or dogs. On Nov. 14, the group announced it had enough petitions to do so.
In response, it should be noted that nobody advocates insensitivity to animal pain, much less outright cruelty. I would agree, therefore, that the use of leghold traps certainly ought to be banned. Such traps subject trapped bears to hours or even days of pain as the animal exacerbates its injuries by struggling, sometimes even gnawing off its own paw in a desperate attempt to escape.
However, I don't agree that the use of dogs or hunting over bait are any more or less cruel than other forms of hunting. The claim that those who hunt with hounds wait for their dogs to tree a bear, knock the bear out of the tree with a deliberate wounding shot and then allow the dogs to tear the animal up is the kind of exaggeration one expects from anti-hunting zealots. In truth, no hunter would risk his dogs that way and a dog-ravaged bear would provide neither an intact pelt or bear steaks!
As to hunting over bait, one needs to understand that the black bear is a wary, solitary animal that is difficult to stalk unless the hunter is very skilled and has a lot of time to devote to the effort. Bait hunting, where stale food is placed regularly within range of a shooting platform, is popular with out-of-state hunters and others with a limited amount of time in which to get their bear.
The issue here is not one of cruelty, but of "sportsmanship." A bullet is a bullet and the skills of marksmanship and shot placement are the same as during a stalk-and-kill. These packaged hunts are part of an industry with a long history in rural Maine. They also bring in a lot of money to the state's fish and game department, funds that are used to support the Warden Service and the management of non-game species.
For senior hunters, hunters with heart conditions, asthma or severe diabetes, cancer patients, arthritics, cripples, amputees and paraplegics, being driven into the woods in an ATV to sit silently in a tree stand, perhaps for hours, is the only way these and many other people can enjoy at least some of the pleasures of a hunt.
The only way that hunting will ever be completely fair and sportsmanlike is if we exercise the Constitutional Right to Arm Bears. Until then, let's agree that hunting is in the words of State Rep. Thom Watson, D-Bath, who is a master Maine guide "Maine's best game-management tool." It's far better than sending wardens out with guns, traps and poison to cull the bear population to keep it healthy.
As to Teddy Roosevelt, I wonder if he'd be up there on Mt. Rushmore if he hadn't spared that mangy little cub.
Bob Jorgensen is a columnist and author and a radio talk show host on Bowdoin College Radio station WBOR 91.1 FM, Mondays 9:30 to 11 a.m.
What a crock of crapola that statement is.
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