Alberta to ban spear hunting after bear video sparks outrage




TORONTO (AP) — The Alberta provincial government plans to ban the practice of spearing wildlife after a video posted online showing an American killing a black bear with a spear sparked outrage.

The video was posted in June on the YouTube account of Josh Bowmar, who runs an Ohio-based fitness company, and shows him killing the bear on a hunt in northern Alberta. By the time it was removed from public view on Monday it had garnered more than 208,000 views.

The 13-minute video shows Bowmar launching a massive spear — with a camera attached — at a bear from 11 to 14 meters (36 to 46 feet) away and captures his jubilant reaction when the animal is hit.

"I just speared a bear!" Bowmar says on the video. "He's going down. I drilled him perfect ... I smoked him."

He later says he got "mad penetration. That's a dead bear."

Commenters on YouTube were livid. At least one comment threatened to do to the hunter what he did to the bear. Twitter users called the bear's killing sick, inhumane, shameful and disgusting.

Alberta's Environment and Parks department issued a statement, calling the spear hunting an "archaic" practice. Spear hunting is already illegal in Ontario, Canada's most populous province.

"Work is well underway to update Alberta's hunting regulations. We will introduce a ban on spear hunting this fall as part of those updated regulations," a spokesman said in an emailed statement. "'In the meantime, we have asked Fish and Wildlife officers to investigate this incident to determine if charges are warranted under existing laws."

Wayne Pacelle, CEO of The Humane Society of the United States, welcomed Alberta's plans to strengthen the law to ban spear hunting.

"Our attitudes toward animals evolve for the better, and there is more antipathy for acts of cruelty like the one from Alberta," said Pacelle. "At one time, cockfighting and dogfighting were legal. Then we got our act together as a society and forbade these practices as depraved, archaic and inhumane."

A year ago, an American killed a lion in Zimbabwe in what authorities said was an illegal hunt, infuriating people worldwide and invigorating an international campaign against trophy hunting in Africa. The death of Cecil the Lion unleashed an extraordinary outpouring of anger at Walter Palmer, the American dentist who shot the lion, and other foreigners with means who have traveled to Africa to kill wildlife.

Bowmar said Tuesday he was frustrated by the attention the hunt has received, saying spear hunting is a common practice that has been used since the early days of man. He said he's received hundreds if not thousands of death threats and has had to restrict his social media accounts because of the threats.

He denied reports that the bear took 20 hours to die, saying it ran 60 yards (55 meters) before collapsing and was dead at most in half a minute.

Bowmar said his hand-made spear with a metal blade five inches (13 centimeters) wide and 16 inches (40 centimeters) long is far more lethal than a bow, which he usually hunts with, and requires more skill because of how close he had to be to the bear. The hunt was in mid-May and was filmed by his wife, Sarah, he said, who also killed a bear with a bow.

Bowmar said he's an accomplished hunter who threw the javelin competitively in college at Heidelberg University in Ohio.

"It's extremely frustrating to me," Bowmar, 26, of Columbus, Ohio, said in a telephone interview. "They're trying to make this out to be the next Cecil the Lion situation. It's clearly not. I didn't do anything illegal. The bear died very humanely. The truth is I honestly care more about animals and hunting than anybody could."

Bowmar said he and his wife hunt across the world, including for red stag in New Zealand. He said it's wrong to criticize him for hunting close-up with a spear given the damage that could be done from a distance with a gun.

"If I was a killer, why wouldn't I pick up a rifle and shoot him from 500 yards (460 meters) away and just kill? Yet I chose a weapon whose effective killing range is only ten yards (nine meters). That gives the animal the greatest chance of escape. That's showing the most amount of respect for the animal, not the least amount of respect. So I don't understand why this is getting so much hatred on it," he said.

He said he and his wife harvested the bear and will have "a beautiful piece" in his house as a result. He also said he and his wife regularly donate meat from their hunts to charities.

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Welsh-Huggins contributed from Columbus, Ohio.
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