In early October, one of Maine’s legends was chased by dogs, then shot and killed. The attack was planned and had accomplices, but no charges will be filed and no penalties exacted because it’s all perfectly legal. It’s what we do to our animals and hire ourselves out so others can do it, too.

The victim was a bear, who had become well-known because of his size and the fact that he had already been captured and released, twice, by state biologists. Some viewed him as a large, magnificent animal. Others saw a trophy.

Up to six dogs, often with radio collars, will pursue a bear until it’s cornered or treed and then killed by a human. It’s not hunting, since it’s the dogs who are relentlessly in pursuit and expend most of the energy; the human simply follows their lead and pulls the trigger.

The person who killed the bear was from New York and had come to Maine because it’s against the law to hound bears in his home state. He was quoted as saying: “I was ecstatic. I was very honored to take a bear like that.”

A venerable bear who was a patriarch among his peers, who had a right to live out the rest of his existence as he chose and who might have been exempted from his fate, is gone, his life cut short, his remains turned into a trophy – a head mounted perhaps over a fireplace, a rug that used to be part of his body. Why? Perhaps so the human who killed him could tell the tale, repeated and no doubt embellished, of how, aided only by a baying pack of dogs and a professional guide who drove the bear into his line of fire, he shot a noble animal to death so he could enjoy the sport of it and, as he said so himself, feel very honored.

Don Loprieno

Bristol