Spot & Stalk
Jun 17 2022
American Bear Foundation
By Timothy Fowler
*previously known as Western Bear Foundation at the time of publication
Joe Kondelis has been the lead volunteer (President) at Western Bear foundation since 2007 when they achieved US 501 C-3 status.
Kondelis stepped up to the challenge. He said, “Myself and a good friend are dyed-in-the-wool bear hunters that just loved the sport and loved the species. We noticed a lack of concern for bears and bear hunting. We felt not a lot of states were worried about their bear populations, not a lot of the organizations out there focusing on the right to bear hunt and ensuring there’s a future for bear hunting on the landscape. We’re in existence because we’re seeing a lot of headwinds coming against bears, bear hunting, and specifically predator hunting.”
The Western Bear Foundation is focused on protecting bears, bear habitat, and the privilege of bear hunting. https://www.westernbearfoundation.org
Kondelis said, “We want to be a double-edged sword; one end of our spectrum is going to be conservation-based. In areas where we have large grizzly populations or large black bear populations, we want to reduce conflict to ensure that we keep as many bears on the landscape as possible. And that’s for both hunters and non-hunters. Bears are our big focus, and we want to ensure we’re doing our part as human beings to reduce conflict. So that’s a big part of it, research and further education. We’re doing some black bear population studies. The conservation piece is a big part of what we’ve done, probably more so in the last five years, just because we haven’t seen a lot of attacks on hunting. On the other side of the sword is Hunter’s advocacy. We’re a hunter advocacy group, specifically for bear hunting, but we do a lot with all predators because we see predator hunting come under attack.
“Hunter advocacy, ensuring a future for bears, and bear hunters is our motto. Right now, we’re seeing a lot of attacks on bear hunting, so that’s where we must defend the right to hunt. We’re always looking out for issues where we’re being attacked as sportsmen, where potential attacks are coming, and we try and organize and rally people to create a good message to stop these and have some attack plan in place. We try to organize bear hunters into one group and make sure we’re doing our part to defend our rights.”
Bear hunting is on the rise. More hunters are exploring bear hunting and are enjoying bear on the table. As bear meat is more widely accepted and celebrated, more folks are taking to the field to pursue black bears.
“I think we’re seeing more people come into bear hunting for a different challenge, maybe a new experience, or a new time of year. We have large predator populations in the lower 48, especially black bears. By all estimates, black bear numbers are higher than before Christopher Columbus landed on the shores of the eastern United States. We have a growing population. We have more sportsmen in the field. I think the number of hunters in the predator space is growing.” Said Kondelis.
2022 kicked off with the launch of many bear and predator hunting challenges, spring hunting season, and fierce pressure against hunters and hunting.
Kondelis said, “January coincides with legislative sessions starting up in the United States. So many of our states’ legislators are in session, and we start seeing many bills pop up, whether predator control or anti-predator hunting bills. And on top of that, we see a lot of our Game and Fish Commission’s meeting. And what we’re seeing right now is a multi-front attack by anti-hunting groups in multiple states at different levels of state structure, whether they’re attacking us through the Game and Fish Commission or attacking us through the legislative process. I think their plan is deliberate. They’re trying to get us to fight a multi-front battle that they think we’re not equipped to do. They know they’re going to lose a few of them, but if they win one fight, then that’s a win for them. And it will be a loss for us ultimately. As an example, right now, we’re seeing a bill being introduced into the Colorado legislation to ban Mountain Lion, bobcat, predator hunting.”
On balance, bear hunters are a quiet lot. We like our walk in the woods, a fair chase, our shared campfires, a smoked leg of bear, a bear hide chair cover, and the chance to do it all again next season. We are collectively under attack. It is time to step up, speak up and sign up.
Sign up here for your $30 annual membership in the American Bear Foundation:
https://www.americanbearfoundation.org/funding/membership/ and get a full year’s subscription to Bear Hunting Magazine.