HSUS Seeks to Outlaw Bear Baying in SC

Hunting dogs are trained in various ways including the use of a live animal of whatever type the dog is being trained to hunt (or at least an animal similar to that type).  For example, a retriever might be trained to pick up a duck who has been shackled.  A terrier might be sent down a tunnel which has caged rats at the end.  Hounds might chase a rabbit or fox around a fenced-in area.  There are alternatives to using live game in training (lures, dummies, etc.) and many trainers make use of those as well.  Some of these faux hunting scenarios are used in competitive events such as field trials.

Bear baying is the term used to describe Plott Hounds (or whatever hound the trainer uses) being trained to bark at a live, chained bear and get him to stand up on his hind legs (so the hunter can get a clean shot, in an actual hunting scenario).  You may have come across the term in the news this week due to an HSUS media push on the subject but opponents have been trying to get the practice outlawed for years.  John Goodwin of HSUS held a presser in SC yesterday and HSUS released undercover videos of SC bear baying events to the AP.  The bear in the videos has reportedly had her claws and some teeth removed.  There is no barrier between the dogs and the bear.  (I haven’t watched the video and don’t intend to but that is the description I’ve read.)

Before I go on, I want to be perfectly clear that I am opposed to the practice of bear baying (including the bear mutilation that accompanies it) and would be happy to see it made illegal in SC.  We have laws against “animal fighting and baiting” but there is a specific provision addressing hunting dogs:

This chapter does not apply to dogs used for the purpose of hunting, including, but not limited to, hunting on shooting preserves or wildlife management areas authorized pursuant to Title 50, or to dogs used in field trials, including events more commonly known as “water races”, “treeing contests”, “coon-on-a-log”, “bear-baying”, or “fox- pen-trials”.

This is why bear baying is legal in SC.  However, just one day after the HSUS campaign began:

A South Carolina lawmaker says he will introduce legislation banning a practice known as “bear baying.

So it looks as if the HSUS efforts are seeing an immediate payoff.  Of course there are a lot of ifs/ands/buts between this announcement and getting a bill passed.  And as I said, I will be glad if bear baying is made illegal.

However, as in so many things, there are shades of grey.  Specifically, if bear baying is outlawed, what will be the next hunting dog event targeted?  On the one hand, it could be argued that no other events are at risk and SC will never hear from HSUS again on the subject of how dogs are trained using live bait.  But on the other hand, and more plausible to my mind, maybe HSUS will see how quickly their campaign garnered political results and will be motivated to expand their targets.

Some of you perhaps feel this would be great because all hunting is cruel.  Others might want to outlaw only the bear baying and leave all other dog events intact.  Still others might want to pick and choose from the list which ones you’d like stricken and which to keep.  But this is all just discussion because you and I do not hunt with dogs in SC.  For those who do, as well as those who simply like to participate in the field trial type events with their dogs, I can understand why they’d be concerned.  What are your thoughts?

23 thoughts on “HSUS Seeks to Outlaw Bear Baying in SC

  1. For many years I hunted with dogs in an extremely rural area of South Carolina. My family ate the meat and I did not kill more than we could eat.

    In much of what is called hunting now the animal does not have a sporting chance and the practices are not fit to be called hunting. There are very few areas left to truly hunt with dogs. What mostly exists nowadays is simply cruel games. Canned hunting, setting dogs upon a fox in a pen, and bear baying are nothing but cruel games. They are not hunting. Setting a dog against a coon on a log is animal fighting, period.

    I have no love for HSUS but bear baying in SC should be outlawed no matter who inititated the push for the legislation. Folks who are truly “hunters” will support it.

  2. I have the same mixed feelings you do. I don’t hunt with dogs, but I know people who do, and they’re good, ethical people who hunt the good hunt. It’s already illegal to hunt bear with hounds in my state. In some ways, hunting with hounds can be more humane than other alternatives like trapping. It’s my understanding they increase efficiency of a hunt, allow, as you said, for a quicker, cleaner shot and less stress for the animal.

    Making a contrived sport of baiting a caged, mutilated, or chained animal is entirely different from actual hunting as practiced by real hunters. I hope people can tell the difference.

  3. Bears have many advocates and fans since the North American Bear Center in Minnesota installed a camera in the den of a wild bear named Lily, and the birth of her cub, Hope, was watched by thousands worldwide. I suppose the HSUS is jumping on the bandwagon since the bears now have thousands of ardent supporters, 112,000 on facebook, who are showing their clout through fund raising for the bear center, voting for grants, and now have picked up on the SC bear baying issue. The HSUS may ignore the other hunting issues unless there is the same potential for more publicity and increasing supporters and donations. I don’t like hunting, but I can understand when it was necessary to feed a family. Bear baying seems more like a cruel sport.
    Petition to outlaw bear baying:


  4. Bear Baying is a cruel sport…and HSUS has turned itself into a cruel sport sort of…the sport of getting dollars anyway they can…and damn they are good at it but they will never get a dime from me.

  5. Slightly OT, but I find it completely fascinating, and very telling, on issues like these whom the true “animal people” are and who those are of the vegan/PETA/hardcore animal rights ilk. True animal lovers understand the layers of species and their places in the food chain, and defend that rightful place with humane intent as opposed to the “All Living Things Have Equal Rights!” stance… But anyway, I digress.

    Back On Topic, I agree with both posters above. I will never hunt anything, but if it is done humanely and swiftly with ecological sensitivity (little to zero waste), I don’t have a problem with it. I do have a problem with an animal–any animal for that matter–being used as bait, over and over. There can be no argument that that is both physically and psychologically cruel. We have enough fancy techno gadgets these days that while I havent looked, I have a hard time believing there arent very life-like duck decoys or rabbit lures etc available on the market for those who must come as close to the real thing as possible.

    I lure course with one of my dogs, and while I have no doubt he would enjoy chasing an actual rabbit, I hear no complaints from him as he chases the plastic bag at Mach speeds… all he knows is his instinct, and that fulfills the majority of it, no harm no foul.

    1. Off topic as well, I don’t think you have in any way defined what ‘true animal people’ are or believe. Try to avoid grouping and stereotyping people next time. Being vegan does not equate to supporting PETA, or vice versa. I don’t know what you consider ‘hardcore animal rights ilk’ but I get the feeling your definition is full of prejudice.
      On topic again, I fully support banning bear baiting er baying. It’s abhorrently cruel. How the hell anyone can stand to engage in such barbaric acts is beyond me.

  6. If there is a legitimate reason to hunt bear ( and I beleive that there is ) how do you train a dog to do it without a bear?

    Is it something that a dog is born with and just knows how to do or does it have to be trained?

    While it doesn’t sound very sporting to tie a bear up and sic dogs on him … it doesn’t sound like that is the sport but the training … so is there another way to do it? I’m just curious.

    1. I’m far from an expert, but I think bear baying is mostly used as a cruel sport in and of itself, not really a training method anymore. Bear hunting with dogs won’t disappear if bear baying becomes illegal.

    2. I have read that some use fake bears or taxidermied bears for training. As bear hunting season is only 6 days long in SC, it’s not feasible for dogs to learn on the job, as it were.

    3. You do it how it’s been done for, like forever! You go out during the hunt season or train out on private land. You take your dogs to where the bears are and you let their instincts take over. Or you bait and work the bait. Baying and treeing a bear isn’t a taught behavior, it just is what it is.

      Once the bear is treed, training over. In hunt season, dead bear. Inexperienced dogs work with experienced dogs.

      In the bear-baying you see on the video, tame bears are used. They are tethered. They cannot tree. It’s not a training exercise.

      There’s nothing really magical about bear hunting with dogs. A dog is a lot more likely to get injured baying a bear than he is treeing one. And he’s certainly a lot more likely to get injured if he thinks every time he runs up to a bear, nothing bad happens – way to set a dog up for failure.

      1. Marji:

        Thank you for the detailed and thoughtful post. It gives me a clue as to what is involved in hunting bear and the problems you detailed with the baiting is as I suspected even with my extremely limited view on training hunting dogs.
        thank you

  7. The dogs do not bite the bear.. they bark at it..the bear is NOT killed but lives to bait another day..the bear is fed and watered…better than most get in the wild..while I do not care one way or the other about the “psychological feelings ” of the bear.. and would never even pretend to know what the bear is thinking others make that judgment with no problem.. perhaps the bear is saying.. come and get me you stupid dogs.. perhaps the bear LIKES to taunt the dogs.. I really cannot say.. and really neither can anyone here.. but I will say that when encroachment like this comes from the HSUS banning all hunting with hounds will be next.. so where does that leave.. PLotts? Coonhounds.. Bloodhounds.. Red bones.. Blue Ticks.. and if hunting with those hounds in banned.. will bird dogs be far behind?? be careful of what you wish for..
    Here is what Wayne Pacelle wishes for.. think he cares if bird dogs and hounds go the way of extinction??

    “The entire animal rights movement in the United States reacted with unfettered glee at the Ban in England …We view this act of parliament as one of the most important actions in the history of the animal rights movement. This will energise our efforts to stop hunting with hounds.” Wayne Pacelle, CEO, Humane Society of the US (HSUS), London Times, December 26, 2004

    “If we could shut down all sport hunting in a moment, we would.” Wayne Pacelle, Senior VP Humane Society of the US (HSUS),

    “Our goal is to get sport hunting in the same category as cock fighting and dog fighting.” Wayne Pacelle, Senior VP Humane Society of the US (HSUS),

    “We are going to use the ballot box and the democratic process to stop all hunting in the United States … We will take it species by species until all hunting is stopped in California. Then we will take it state by state. Wayne Pacelle, Senior VP Humane Society of the US (HSUS),

    “The definition of obscenity on the newsstands should be extended to many hunting magazines.” Wayne Pacelle, HSUS

    nuff said

  8. The hound and cur owners I know train their young animals by hunting with them, in a pack of experienced dogs. That’s coons and foxes.

    I don’t personally know anyone who hunts bears or mountain lions, as the former is not legal in PA and the latter impossible, but I believe it is done the same way.

    Baiting … er, “baying,” is not a necessary or included part of the process. No captive animals are used.

  9. I know folks in Wisconsin who live in areas where dogs are used to hunt bear. They train their dogs in pretty much the same way Houlie says that the coon and fox hunters do.

    Baying or baiting sounds like a pointlessly cruel act.

    For the record, I ‘hunt’ vermin like woodchucks, squirrels, mice, moles and etc. with my dogs. The dogs do pretty much all the work and I’ve never needed bait animals to train them.

  10. Bear baiting/baying is illegal in the rest of the country. It’s not asking much to demand South Carolina join the rest of us in the 21st century where blood-sports, I mean “training exercises” of this ilk are outlawed.

    Folks have been hunting bears without baiting/baying since forever. They are managing to kill bears with dogs without using tame bears to “train” them. If they can do it, I’m sure folks in South Carolina can do it too.

    This bear, who has to endure dozens of encounters with dogs, deserves to live our her life somewhere safe and sound. Her use is actually illegal under SC law as she isn’t supposed to be exposed to more than one set of dogs at a time or repeated exposures. Yet she is transported from venue to venue. The legislature doesn’t know b/c they are told lies to keep them comfy and ignorant (like how the bear is in a cage and isn’t repeatedly used, both falsehoods).

    I do wonder how you’d feel about this issue if someone else was spearheading the campaign. But it’s HSUS, so gotta trot out the same-old, same-old.

    Bear baying/baiting is a low hanging fruit. It’s not a slippery slope. It’s illegal everywhere else and outlawing it in the final state isn’t going to magically end hunting across the universe. That is irrational.

  11. there’s a pretty simple line.
    If the prey animal is confined, it’s not hunting.
    If the prey animal is tethered, it’s cruelty.

    This one is (thankfully) going the way of hogdog rodeos.
    Hog hunting, and I assume bear hunting with dogs will remain

    1. Where do field trials (of all types) fit in? They are not hunting but are supposed to mimic actual hunting scenarios. Some owners don’t actually hunt with their dogs, just enjoy the field tests.

      1. you asking me? I’m opposed to all uses of our dogs to hurt/maim/kill other animals, whether it’s dogfighting, live lurecoursing or “terrierwork”. To me they are all blood sports, despite the many efforts by people to “explain” to me that they are NOT like dogfighting and I am wrong wrong wrong. Our fish/game traditions do not allow the use of dogs to hunt deer for example… you may ask “why not”?

        Obviously herding and retrieving don’t fit into this definition and of course neither do field trials that don’t involve live prey.

        Some other activities are borderline to me. I’m not actually even a huge fan of falconry. Real dog “work” such as livestock guardian is extremely dangerous for dog and predator, as you can read at Stephen Bodio’s Querencia blog.

        I have no problem with any kind of sport or “work” that is not meant to cause injury (but in which injuries may occur)

        unleash the hate.

  12. oh and p.s. I have no problem with ethical, regulated hunting: I just think hunters should kill their own prey

  13. I feel that bear baying is very wrong, cruel, and completely unjustified.

    I have difficulty understanding why any one would think otherwise. I hope that this practice is stopped immediately.

    I also hope that capturing ferral pigs and then letting a pack of dogs loose on them will be declared illegal as well.

    I also fear badly for the dogs that are used for this purpose. This is no way to treat a dog.

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