The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources (DNR) has been very busy with telephone calls after the Humane Society of the United States came to the state last week to release undercover videos of bear baying events in the Upstate.
When you call certain offices at DNR, this is what you’ll hear:
If you’re calling concerning media reports on the practice of bear baying, DNR would like to provide the following information. Bear baying is not a permitted practice nor does DNR permit bear baying. Bear baying is not a field trial event recognized by the DNR. And DNR does not issue captive bear permits for bears to be kept for the purpose of bear baying.
The message continues to give out the agency’s mailing address for anyone wanting to mail in written comments.
DNR spokesman Mike Willis says since the Humane Society came to town, his agency has gotten a lot of calls from people opposed to bear baying.
We’re not keeping a regular count of the calls but it is a regular stream. They’re coming from all over the country. I would say that probably 75 percent of them are coming from out of South Carolina.
Willis says for a limited time in 2005, DNR issued 38 permits to keep bears in captivity, as pets, in small zoos or for dog training. He says otherwise, keeping bears is illegal. Many of those original 38 have died and only 21 remain in captivity. He says when keeping bears was outlawed, those people who had them already were grandfathered in, only because there was nothing else to do with the bears. Willis says the animals couldn’t be released into the wild and zoos wouldn’t take them.
In bear baying, a declawed, defanged bear is chained to a stake as hunting dogs snap at it. The national organization is pressuring state officials to outlaw the practice. Humane Society officials say such events are banned in every other state and only held in Pakistan.
Hunters say it’s just an exercise that allows them to train dogs for bear hunting. Bear hunting is permitted for two weeks each October in three Upstate counties.