In March 2017, a photograph showing a man posing with a dead bear was widely circulated along with the claim that the animal was killed while it was hibernating thanks to a new law:
This man posed proudly with the bear he shot while it was hibernating. The poor animal didn’t stand a chance.
The image was frequently shared with criticism of H.J. Res. 69, a piece of legislation that would nullify protections for hibernating bears (it passed the Senate on 21 March 2017). This gave many viewers the impression that the man pictured above was emboldened by this new law and marched into a bear’s hibernating den, and then killed the sleeping animal.
However, this is untrue; it is actually an image from the spring 2014 hunting season in Alaska’s Becharof National Wildlife Refuge, and although there are arguments to be made both for against bear hunting, this does not show an animal that was killed while hibernating by a suddenly emboldened hunter. The photograph was posted to the Alaska Peninsula and BNWR Facebook page in 2016, along with the following message:
Last day for spring bear hunting is today! Whether the hunters shot their trophy bear or not, we hope everyone had a safe and enjoyable time with their guides!
Bear hunting on the Peninsula alternates between spring (even years) and fall (odd years). The next big game hunting on the Refuge this year will be moose in September.
Photo: Spring bear taken on Becharof NWR. Note the large amount of snow? You guessed it, we didn’t have that this year ;)
Photo Credit: Phil Shoemaker/ USFWS
The photograph, then, is real, but it does not show a man who took advantage of a new law to kill a hibernating bear — rather, it’s a picture of a hunter posing with the carcass of a bear he killed in 2014, nearly three years before legislation putatively allowing that act was passed.