- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 27, 2007

It seems like our elected officials should have more important things on their legislative dockets, but there’s a likelihood polar bear hunting will become illegal for Americans because of a legislator who thinks it’s his duty to deal with bears — not the Iraq war, not poverty, not outrageous energy costs — but bears who really don’t require his attention. The bears are doing just fine. I don’t know about the senator.

Actually, the hunting isn’t under attack. Rather, it”s the transportation of a polar bear skin or entire carcass back from Canada (where polar bear hunting is done legally) into the United States.

The so-called “Polar Bear Protection Act” was added to an Interior Department Appropriations Bill by Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island. It would prohibit the importation of polar bears shot with the blessings of Canadian wildlife officials who carefully regulate expensive hunts and have evidence there is no shortage of polar bears. In fact, biologists who have worked with Inuit tribal leaders point out there are more polar bears than ever in their sector of Canada.

So what’s up with Sen. Reed’s S.R. 1406 (also House bill H.R. 2327)? Aren’t our elected “do-gooders” aware that sport hunters are the last people on earth who would want to see any wildlife species endangered? The prestigious Safari Club International (SCI), the National Rifle Association (NRA) and other pro-hunting organization will do everything in their power to protect wildlife. Odd as it sounds, had it not been for the dollars spent by well-to-do hunters of African game, many wildlife species now would be threatened and/or endangered. The big bucks spent by wealthy American, European and Japanese hunters provided the necessary funds to hire better trained game police, which holds down poaching and permits more research to help troubled animals.

The same is true in Canada. An import ban would do considerable harm to polar bear conservation and management, and it would not reduce the numbers of bears shot every year. The SCI and NRA point out it’s the native communities who own polar bear “tags” assigned to them by the Canadian government. If Americans stopped polar bear hunting, the natives would use the tags for subsistence purposes. They would shoot the bears, and American dollars would be removed from native villages that depend on the hunters.

It wouldn’t hurt to let your senator know how you feel about this unnecessary bill. Go to www.senate.gov to find your legislator and send him or her a friendly note.

Snowy groupers in Virginia? — Peninsula Saltwater Sport Fisherman’s Association member Bob Manus of Ark, Va., caught a state record snowy grouper June 10 that weighed 65½ pounds. The catch breaks an earlier state record of 49 pounds, 9 oz., that had been set only six weeks earlier. Manus also filed an application with the International Game Fish Association that, if accepted, would make his snowy grouper the all-tackle world record. Manus caught the grouper in the Atlantic in more than 90 fathoms of water near the Norfolk Canyon. He fished with master angler Ken Neill III on Neill’s boat, the Healthy Grin. And you thought you had to go clear to Florida to catch a grouper.

Maryland gobbler take is down — The recently concluded spring gobbler hunt in Maryland was a bit of a bust. Turkey hunters shot 2,455 of the wild gobblers in the hunt, an 18 percent decrease from the 2006 harvest of 3,008 turkeys. Surveys conducted by biologists from the Maryland Department of Natural Resources showed the reproductive success was below-average across Maryland during the summers of 2005 and 2006. The lack of 1- and 2-year old gobblers also was evident in the age structure of the harvest. Of all the spring gobblers shot, only 18 percent came from the state’s public hunting lands.

The western counties were tops again as always. Garrett County hunters shot 303 turkeys, followed by Washington (269) and Allegany (259). Southern Maryland’s Charles County is coming on as hunters bagged 209.

c Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report on Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com.