Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Groups Call for Cancellation of Black Bear Hunt in Great Dismal Swamp Area in Virginia Scheduled For Friday and Saturday

Article:

Groups protest black bear hunt in Virginia

http://www.newsobserver.com/102/story/514812.html


CHESAPEAKE, VA. - Two animal rights groups have launched a campaign to cancel a black bear hunt in the Great Dismal Swamp scheduled for Friday and Saturday.

In Defense of Animals and the Animal Welfare Institute argue that the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, on the Virginia-North Carolina border, did a shoddy job of studying the refuge's bear population, upon which the hunt is based.

"The foundation for the hunt is extraordinarily fragile," said D.J. Schubert, a wildlife biologist with the Animal Welfare Institute.

The number of bears killed is capped at 20. One hundred hunters selected in a lottery can participate. Each paid $50 for the privilege.

"The only reason to allow the slaughter is to appease a small minority who take pride and pleasure in killing defenseless animals, and it's just not right," said Kristie Phelps, a member of In Defense of Animals.

The groups have started a letter-writing campaign and petition online.

Suzanne Baird, the manager for the Great Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge, has said the refuge worked with biologists who concluded "a small hunt done late in the season will have a negligible impact on the population."

Studies estimate the swamp's bear population to be between 275 and 350.

Land around the Great Dismal Swamp is one the state's two prime bear habitats. The other is in the Appalachians of western Virginia. The state is home to about 6,000 black bears, a wildlife expert said.

The bear hunt will take place on 21,000 acres divided into two sections in the Virginia portion of the 111,200-acre refuge. Bear hunting will not be allowed in the North Carolina section.

Hunters are required to use 20-gauge or larger shotguns.

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