We live in grizzly country. Whenever I walk the paths around my house and trek through Glacier National Park with my family, we respect the grizzly bears. We do not leave any food or trash out for bears to eat. We sing and clap and do what we can to scare the bears away so that we can share nature’s gifts in peace – without harm – to us or the bear.
My approach to the grizzly bear is governed by my protective nature. I want to protect my family from harm and I want to protect the bears from harm. As a rabbi and person of faith, I seek to approach all of God’s creatures with respect and care. In fact, my reading of the book of Genesis inspires me to act as a caretaker for the earth and all the creatures who roam the earth, such as the grizzly. I would never want to see a world without grizzly bears.
While in the past we as a country have acted to protect the grizzly bear from extinction, there is a debate about whether the work is done. There is a move to de-list the grizzly bears as “endangered” and as a person of faith and lover of nature, I would rather err on the side of caution and promote more protection.
People of faith are called to give serious consideration to our actions on all the world’s inhabitants – human and animal alike. This consideration must include evaluating the consequences of actions taken on our behalf by our federal and state governments, including our federal government’s plan to remove Endangered Species Act protections from Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears and our Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks’ plans to sell these bears to trophy hunters.
Our religious teachings tell us that God gave people dominion over animals, however, dominion does not give us the right to cause indiscriminate pain and destruction. Many religions teach that we are permitted to use animals only when there is a genuine, legitimate need, and we must do so in the manner that causes the animal the least suffering.
Nobody needs a dead grizzly bear trophy.
We will suffer from losing these beautiful animals, and the bears will suffer. Bears that are killed by trophy hunters will suffer from the immediate pain and distress of being shot, and in some cases, lingering injured for hours when the hunter’s shot doesn’t kill immediately. It is possible that some may even be chased by hounds or trapped.
Endangered Species Act protection has significantly benefited Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears. They have rebounded from as few as 136 grizzly bears when they were listed as “threatened” in 1975 to perhaps several hundred bears today. But grizzly bear populations in the U.S. are not recovered. And after delisting, many more Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears will be killed as these states open seasons allowing trophy hunters to kill these majestic creatures.
Bears who escape the hunters’ guns will also be harmed. Young grizzly bears stay with their mothers up to three years learning to be successful adults. Orphaning these young bears before their mothers have taught them all they need to know – indeed in some cases even before they are able to minimally fend for themselves – is simply cruel.
Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem grizzly bears still need federal protection to ensure they survive and thrive in the future – for us, and for generations to come. I call on all people of faith and conscience to speak out on behalf of grizzly bears and against this cruel proposal. Do you want to see a world that only contains dead grizzlies on the walls of homes and museums? I don't.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is taking public comment on this proposal until today, May 10. Please urge the agency to keep federal protections for Yellowstone grizzly bears.