When my daughter came home and told me she was learning about black bears, I did what I usually do and offered to bring in a bear rug and some bears skulls. I love teaching the ‘why’ behind hunting. I was shocked and excited when the teacher said yes!
I packed up my smallest bear rug, two skulls and two photo albums of my visits to bear dens and headed into the local kindergarten class. Sixteen 5 and 6 year olds greeted me, full of energy. You are never really sure when you go into a presentation about how much you are going to be able to talk about hunting.
After the kids shared all of the facts that they have learned about bears, they asked me questions about black bears and what it was like to go out to the dens with the biologist. They wanted to know how the biologists drug the bears so that they can do the den research. It helped that I had photos of bear biologist like Randy Cross, Lisa and Jake Feener and Kendall Martin. The kids could see the biologists measured the babies, checked the sow’s collar and the number tattooed on her upper lip. They were fascinated.
The kids asked all kinds of questions about the skulls and each nook and cranny that they saw. They could see the difference in the size and the color, size and cracks in the teeth. Each kid was so interested in the bears and were happy to find out more.
I was so excited when their teacher started talking about hunting and how we need to hunt bears to keep the population healthy across Maine. We also talked more about how the biologists work to make sure there is a good, healthy number of bears and that not too many or too few are hunted.
Some of the kids in the class come from hunting families and they talked about other relatives that had bears in their houses or that hunted deer. That was their connection to the conversation and the idea of hunting and conservation. I was thrilled to hear it! If we can keep kids excited about hunting and the health of Maine’s wild animals, then maybe we can keep the number of hunters from nose diving in the next decade or so.
Teaching them the benefits of hunting at this age will hopefully get them to understand the importance it plays in the ecosystem when they are older. The more information and hands on experiences they can have, the better. They may never hunt themselves, but if they understand and appreciate the need for hunting, that will help all of us in the long run.