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Minnesota Legislature

Bear hunting could be barrel of fun

Published (2/20/2009)
By Sue Hegarty
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More details remain to be resolved on a bill that would allow bear hunters to leave portable stands overnight in wildlife management areas and give them permission to use a barrel to bait bear on private hunting grounds.

Nonetheless, HF477, sponsored by Rep. Cy Thao (DFL-St. Paul), was laid over Feb. 16 by the House Game, Fish and Forestry Division for possible inclusion in its omnibus bill.

Due to the overlap of deer and bear hunting seasons and variations in regulations, division members urged that further language be inserted to clarify between bear and deer hunting etiquette. For example, deer stands left in wildlife management areas may be used on a first-come, first-served basis. Bear stands, on the other hand, must be removed from areas daily. Allowing overnight bear stands may cause confusion and encroachment problems, said division members.

The bill’s other provision would allow bear hunters to use a barrel to hold bait, but only on private property.

Howard Goldman, state director of the Humane Society of the United States, said the bear population is declining, and he fears that more bears would be taken by allowing barrels for bait. Feeding bears from a barrel also contradicts wildlife education that urges people not to feed bears. A fed bear makes it less wary of humans, and the bear can become a nuisance, said Goldman.

Rep. Tom Hackbarth (R-Cedar) suggested that Thao study barrel policies in Ontario, Canada and refine his bill prior to action being taken.

A companion bill, SF388, sponsored by Sen. Tom Saxhaug (DFL-Grand Rapids), awaits action by the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee.

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