It seems like the question of hunting black bear in North Carolina with bait never ends. Several years ago the wildlife biologists who worked with our North Carolina population of black bears discovered that a substantial number of hunters were using a large variety of processed food products to attract bears.
Being omnivorous the bears soon became particularly fond of eating sweets such as candy and sweet rolls, even bubble gum seemed to be particularly attractive to the bears. The baiting of bears was reaching levels that staggered even other hunters’ imaginations when literally truckloads of chocolate candy that had been declared to be unfit for human consumption was being dumped in the woods to satisfy the bears’ sweet tooth.
When the biologists discovered that our bears were becoming hopelessly obese and suffering from rotting teeth, it was decided that something had to be done to stop the feeding of bears with processed foodstuffs.
It wasn’t easy changing any law having to do with bear hunting, but after much haggling, a law was passed that totally banned the feeding of black bears in North Carolina with any “processed food.” Problem solved? Not yet. Apparently some hunters had problems with the definition of the word “processed.”
Just a few days ago it came to the attention of the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) that certain bear hunters were feeding a substantial amount of blanched peanuts which, for some reason, were declared to be “unfit for human consumption” and given or sold to the hunters to use for baiting bears. The bear hunters who were using this type of bait had been using these blanched peanuts under the assumption that they were still “raw” and not considered to be “processed.”
For example, the use of shelled corn to attract bears would be legal whereas popped or otherwise altered (processed) corn would be illegal.
When the NCWRC became aware that this was going on and involved some bear hunters who were considered to be on the up-and-up, they decided to quickly put a stop to this by making the bear hunters aware that blanched peanuts were indeed to be considered to be processed food. In a very wise decision to try and solve the baiting problem before the bear season opens, they are letting the hunters correct the problem before the season opens and save themselves the trouble of being charged with a serious game law violation.
“The N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission is reminding hunters that only raw products are legal when using peanuts and peanut products for the supplemental feeding of black bears or when being placed in locations where the Commission has established a bear hunting season,” a press release said.
“North Carolina law prohibits the placement of ‘processed food products’ in any area where the Wildlife Resources Commission has set an open bear hunting season. However, hunters routinely supplement naturally available food with commercially available products, and the law allows hunters to release dogs in the vicinity of any food product that is not a ‘processed food product.’”
Raw peanuts, shelled or in the shell, do not constitute a processed food product. See the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission website for more information (www.ncwildlife.org).
“Processed peanut products include those that have been blanched, which swells the nut and cracks the skin for easy removal. Byproducts of the blanching (which are also sometimes sold by manufacturing facilities) will contain peanuts or pieces of peanuts, skins and pieces of peanuts. They are no longer considered raw, but processed, and are unlawful to place in locations the Commission has set an open season for taking black bears,” the release stated.
“After blanching, the peanuts may be further cooked for roasting, and left whole or crushed to varying sizes. Roasted peanuts and their byproducts, which include coarse or finely crushed peanuts and their meal, are also considered ‘processed food products.’ It is unlawful to place them in locations the Commission has set an open season for taking black bears.
“After the final roasting, peanuts may be further processed into a range of products, including peanut butter. Peanut butter is also processed, and therefore it is unlawful to use it in locations where the Wildlife Resources Commission has set an open season for taking black bears.”
Apparently the bear hunters who had been using blanched peanuts for bait were conscientious enough to approach the Wildlife Commission well before the opening of this year’s first bear season and ask for a clarification of the law as it related to whether the transformation of raw peanuts into a processed food product by blanching constituted a violation of the bear baiting law. It was a smart move and demonstrated that the hunters were using every attempt to stay within the limits of the law this year.
For more information on hunting regulations in North Carolina, see the Inland Fishing, Hunting and Trapping Regulations Digest.