Now is the time for nature tourism in NH
Why is it legal in New Hampshire to feed bears to kill them but illegal to feed them when they don’t have enough food? Why not set up wildlife viewing sanctuaries for our black bears and show off these magnificent animals to the world.
The world’s leading authority on black bears, Dr. Lynn Rogers of Ely, Minn., has been feeding and studying bears for 50 years. Dr. Rogers has discovered:
• Black bears are curious, intelligent, gentle and non-aggressive animals and NOT the ferocious animals that are portrayed by the media.
• Black bears become a “nuisance” when there is not enough food in the forest. The answer is not to kill them but to feed them in carefully select locations away from urban areas, within the forest perimeter and near a source of water. This is called “diversionary feeding.”
• Wherever diversionary feeding was used, reports of “nuisance” bears dropped 80 percent, saving the lives of numerous bears who might otherwise have been killed.
• Diversionary feeding did not change the bears’ preference for wild food. Feeding them natural foods like nuts and seeds sustained them when there was a scarcity of food in the forest. They did not become lazy or dependent on the feeding sites.
• Fed bears were NOT dead bears. Survival rates for cubs increased and all fed bears were healthier and lived longer.
• Bears were trusting at the feeding sites but avoided people in the forest. The public could safely hike through the woods without fear of bear attacks.
Years ago, Vince Shute stopped killing bears that broke into his cabin and feed them instead.
After his death, others continued to feed the bears. Today the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary in Orr, Minn., is now a major tourist attraction.
Richard Goguen operates the Little Big Bear Safari in Acadieville, New Brunswick, Canada, and has been feeding bears for 22 years. The New Brunswick Tourism department promotes his business and he has lots of visitors mainly from Europe.
When asked why they visit British Columbia, 79 percent said it was to view the bears!
Nature tourism could be a great source of revenue for NH Fish and Game as well as improve their public image. Our understanding of animal behavior has evolved light years since the 1930s mentality that forms the management philosophy of most wildlife agencies in this country.
Almost all diversionary feeding sites could easily be converted to wildlife viewing sanctuaries with little additional costs.
“Although not completely harmless, when done properly, tourism can provide a relatively benign economic incentive for wildlife conservation ... This may be the best we can hope for in a world increasingly dominated by humans and their domestic animals. Nature tourism is now being seen as a major contributor to poverty reduction,” a according to Dr. Michael Hutchins in a post on NationalGeorgraphic.com.
Some 86 million Americans spent $76 billion last year watching wildlife — triple what they spent on movies or sporting events, according to studies just released by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service. Hunting decreased by 14 percent, to 11.6 million participants who spent only $25.6 billion.
New Hampshire already has Corbin Park, an exclusive hunting preserve for millionaires. Why not establish a wild animal preserve for wildlife photographers, artists and nature lovers, like Triple D Game Farm in Montana (tripledwildlife.com), Lakota Wolf Preserve in New Jersey (lakotawolf.com) or Bear Country USA in South Dakota (bearcountryusa.com)?
For those who think feeding apex predators is dangerous, look no further than tropical tourism, where visitors safely swim with sharks, sting rays and moray eels. Wildlife viewing sanctuaries are a huge economic benefit for many countries, especially Africa, which receives nine times more income from nature tourism than from hunting.
Why should nature lovers be forced to spend thousands of dollars to go to far off Africa or Alaska to view wildlife? Now is the time to make New Hampshire a nature tourism destination!
Richard Whitney is a nationally known portrait painter who lives in Stoddard.