Being A Bear In Today’s World Is Tough

Here we present 12 reasons for a ban of bear hunts using dogs

By Bill Lea

NORTH CAROLINA – Hunting bears with dogs is prohibited in the following counties or parts of counties: Alamance south of I-85, Anson west of N.C. Hwy 742, Cabarrus, Chatham, Davie, Davidson, Forsyth, Gaston, Guilford, Lee, Lincoln, Mecklenburg, Montgomery, Orange south of I-85, Pamlico (per local law), Randolph, Rockingham, Rowan, Stanly, Union, and Wake south of N.C. Hwy 98. In all other North Carolina counties, hunting bears with the use of dogs is legal during open bear seasons, but restrictions may apply on game lands.

1. Hunters killed 2000 bears in 2007, more than 3000 bears in 2015, and 4000 bears in 2022.  It is still not enough, now the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission wants to kill even MORE bears.  When is enough ENOUGH?!

2. It is not just the death toll – it is the agonizing way in which the bears die.  NCWRC not only permits, but promotes the killing of these bears by allowing packs of dogs to chase, torment, and terrorize bears for hours at a time.  The exhausted bears eventually “tree.”  The bears may finally find relief, if they are lucky, via a killing shot fired by the hunter.  Unfortunately, some bear hunters shoot and intentionally wound the bear, so he or she falls from the tree.  They then “reward” their dogs by letting them attack the injured bear.  Of course, this is illegal.  In reality, nobody knows how often this backwoods behavior still takes place.

3. Bears and other innocent wildlife are sometimes not the only victims of these packs of free-roaming dogs – just ask Dr. Kadie Anderson.  While camping on the Nantahala National Forest on October 13, 2014, Anderson and her two dogs were attacked by a pack of bear hunting dogs.  Her dogs nearly died from the injuries they sustained and Anderson was bitten numerous times trying to protect her dogs.  Dr. Anderson sought help from Graham County Sheriff’s Department, US Forest Service, and North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission to find the bear hunters and their dogs, so the dogs could be tested for rabies.  All refused to assist and as a result, Dr. Anderson had to undergo a series of painful rabies shots.  Now, NCWRC wants to expand the bear hunting season into more of the fall color season, resulting in even greater chances for recreationists to encounter packs of dogs with disastrous results.

4. Bears are driven by FEAR.  Mother bears teach their cubs to fear nearly everything and the lesson stays with them for life.  Killing bears by harassing and chasing them for up to days at a time, exploits this fact.  It is wrong for NCWRC to allow hunters to kill bears with dogs.  Even cubs may be harassed, separated from their mothers, attacked, and sometimes killed by bear dogs.  This is not about hunting – it is about the need to stop a state-endorsed cruel and barbaric practice!

5. NCWRC’s allowing bear hunting with dogs gives purpose to the practice of what has long been known as Bear Baying.  This once legal activity involves capturing live bears (usually cubs and young bears) and keeping them in captivity.  Typically, their claws and canines are removed.  Captors chain the bears to a stake, and then let their dogs attack the tethered bear for training purposes.  Bear baying is illegal in North Carolina, but allowing bear hunting with dogs provides an incentive for the practice to still take place in remote forest hideaways.  (As a US Forest Service employee, I was part of a team involved in rescuing a bear from a poacher who was targeting denned bears, so he could kill mother bears and capture their cubs for use in illegal bear baying dog-training activities.)

(Click on image to enlarge)

(Click on image to enlarge)

6. NCWRC is proposing to lengthen the bear season by nine days.  The Commission states it will “change the composition of the Mountain bear harvest…”  Bear biologists know that pregnant females enter their dens prior to other bears.  Opening the season early will allow bear hunters to kill more mothers-to-be.  Yes, killing pregnant mothers and unborn cubs will decrease the bear population.  With one shot, two to five bears will die.  NCWRC accomplishes its goal, but are we morally and ethically void in the process?

7. NCWRC’s objective is to increase the “annual sustained harvest” of bears.  The agency and its policies view bears as a crop, not as living beings who experience fear and feel pain.  Apparently NCWRC does not care about their proposals and practices that lead to horrific deaths, as evidenced by their indifference to the suffering of both bears and dogs.  The people of North Carolina deserve to have an agency that truly cares about animals and makes appropriate decisions – not an agency that allows the cruelest way imaginable to control bear populations to meet their “harvest” objectives.

8. In the State of North Carolina, it is illegal to pit roosters against roosters in what is known as cock fighting.  Pitting dogs against dogs (i.e. dog fighting) has also been outlawed.  However, the NCWRC not only endorses, but promotes pitting packs of dogs against bears.  They call it “sport.”  Now they want even more of it.

9. Instead of trying to kill more bears in such a horrific manner, NCWRC should use more of its resources to teach people how to co-exist peacefully with their black bear neighbors?  The agency with responsibility for overseeing North Carolina’s wildlife should stress education over elimination.

10. Dogs are also victims of NCWRC’s proposal to expand the bear hunting season.  Most people are unaware that the humane laws that apply to protecting pet dogs do NOT apply to bear hunting dogs. Sadly, bear dogs are taught and encouraged to attack bears, can be nearly starved to death (skinny dogs run faster), can be chained outside without protection or shelter from heat and cold, and can be beaten mercilessly without any penalty from the law.  In addition to that, NC’s Dangerous Dog Law holds the owner of a dog liable for injuries resulting from an attack, but the law exempts bear hunters for injuries caused by their dogs.  In 2015, following Dr. Kadie Anderson’s attack by bear hunting dogs, House Bill 71 was introduced to change the law that protects bear hunters from liability, but NC Legislators refused to pass the amendment.  It is important to remember that bear hunting dogs are as much innocent victims of pitting dogs against bears, as the bears are.  Ask any veterinarian who treats hunting dogs injured from fighting with bears.  In addition to the physical cruelty, most of these dogs will never experience the love dogs crave.  (I adopted an abandoned bear hunting hound years ago and she responded so positively to the love she suddenly received.)

11. Every bear is a unique individual with a distinct personality.  Although they may look similar, no two bears are alike.  If a bear must die, he or she should die with the least amount of suffering as possible.  Prolonged harassment, torment, and fear, should not be part of the process nor part of NCWRC’s desire to kill more bears to reach their population objectives.  Compassion should be a human trait we embrace not toss aside, as NCWRC does in their killing of bears with packs of dogs.

12. Many North Carolina residents want the present torture of terrorizing our bears by hunters with their packs of dogs (also victimized) stopped.  There are fifteen states that allow bear hunting, but do not allow bear hunting with dogs.  It is time North Carolina joins their ranks.

Comments may be submitted by e-mail to:  (include name, county, and state of residence).

Bill Lea is a nationally acclaimed black bear photographer and since 1983, has worked with bears in a variety of capacities, including serving as an Assistant District Ranger with responsibility for the wildlife program on the Pisgah Ranger District of the Pisgah National Forest – U.S. Forest Service. Readers may email him at: