Undersized bear shot on first day of hunt in Dismal Swamp
By HATTIE BROWN GARROW, The Virginian-Pilot
© December 1, 2007
Last updated: 10:53 PM
The first bear – albeit an undersize one – was bagged at the Great
Dismal Swamp National Wildlife Refuge.
The refuge kicked off its second two-day black bear hunt Friday
morning, to the dismay of animal-rights advocates. The bear that was
shot was under the 100-pound minimum, a violation of state law, said
refuge manager Chris Lowie.
The male bear was confiscated as evidence, and the person who killed
it was ticketed. In addition, the permit of the hunter, who was not
identified, was revoked.
D.J. Schubert, a wildlife biologist for the Alexandria-based Animal
Welfare Institute, called the event “tragic.”
“We don’t believe there’s any justification for this hunt,” he said.
Nearly all of the 48 permitted hunters showed up at the swamp Friday.
Though weather conditions were ideal, Lowie said he heard of no other
“It’s a nice, cool fall day. There’s barely any wind,” he said. “It’s
a nice day to be in the woods.”
No measures – such as a longer hunt over a larger area or additional
scouting time – were taken this time around to ensure that at least one
bear would be taken, Lowie said. Not a single bear was bagged last year.
The hunt is taking place on roughly 21,000 of the refuge’s 111,203
Fifty hunters, each allowed to bring one guest hunter, were eligible
to purchase the $50 permits. A computer lottery in October selected
which applicants could participate in the hunt.
All those who participate, guests included, were required to pay for
a permit. One day was designated for hunters to scout the swamp.
Nearly all of the 234 people who applied for the bear hunt live in
Virginia, said Philip Boyce of CyberData, the company contracted to
handle the lottery. The rest hailed from Georgia, North Carolina,
Washington, D.C., and West Virginia.
Last year’s lottery picked 100 hunters, but they weren’t allowed to
bring a friend. The refuge decided to make a change after hearing from
those chosen. “We found out that some people got selected, but their
buddies didn’t,” Lowie said. “They didn’t want to go it alone.”
The refuge’s bear population is estimated at between 300 and 350, and
should not be adversely affected by the hunt, Lowie said. Officials are
allowing no more than 20 bears to be killed over the two days.
“We’re just taking all the precautions we can to not hurt the bear
population,” Lowie said.
The National Wildlife Refuge System Improvement Act of 1997 included
hunting as an appropriate public use of the refuge system. Deer hunting
is the only other type allowed in the Great Dismal Swamp.
The Animal Welfare Institute and one other animal-rights organization
sent an eight-page letter to the refuge, as well as the U.S. Fish and
Wildlife Service, condemning the bear hunt. It also requested that a new
environmental impact review be done before deciding whether to hold the
hunt next year.
“It’s not surprising to me that only one bear has been killed so
far,” Schubert said. “It’s consistent with what happened last year. …
Maybe that population is not as large as they think it is.”
Hattie Brown Garrow, (757) 222-5562,