In a bizarre turn of events, authorities in Missouri are urging residents to refrain from attempting to wrestle bears, as the practice is not only dangerous but also illegal. The Salem Police Department was prompted to issue this warning after receiving reports of a black bear near Rolla Road, located approximately 130 miles northeast of Springfield, Missouri.
Law enforcement officers diligently monitored the situation, ensuring the safety of both the public and the bear. Fortunately, the bear was last seen heading north, away from the town.
In a Facebook post, the police department advised individuals who encounter a bear to notify them immediately, emphasizing the importance of avoiding any attempts to feed or interact with the wild animal.
While bear sightings may not be entirely uncommon, the surprising twist in this story arises from the fact that bear wrestling is explicitly prohibited in Missouri under statute 578.176. This law was established in 1996, classifying bear wrestling as a class A misdemeanor offense.
According to the statute, a person can be charged with bear wrestling if they engage in any of the following actions:
- Wrestling a bear
- Permitting bear wrestling on premises under their control
- Promoting, conducting, or staging bear wrestling events
- Advertising bear wrestling
- Collecting admission fees for bear wrestling
- Purchasing, selling, or possessing a bear knowing it will be used for bear wrestling
- Training a bear for bear wrestling
- Subjecting a bear to surgical alteration for bear wrestling purposes
It is worth noting that Missouri is not the only state to outlaw bear wrestling. Although Alabama previously had legislation against this activity, it was repealed as obsolete in 2015. The state now relies on broader animal cruelty laws to protect bears and other animals from such mistreatment.
In fact, bear wrestling is viewed as an archaic and inhumane practice across the United States. At least 18 states have specific bans on the books, while general cruelty-to-animals laws in other states would likely cover this activity.
Catie Cryar, the manager of media relations for People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA), shed light on the troubling history behind bear wrestling. “Although bear wrestling may sound unbelievably ridiculous, it has a serious history,” Cryar stated. Exploiters would remove bears’ teeth and claws, forcing them into brutal fights with intoxicated individuals. The cruelty involved in this practice necessitated legislative action to ban it.
Cryar further emphasized that wild animals, including bears, should be left undisturbed in their natural habitats. PETA advises individuals concerned about the presence of bears in residential areas to discourage their presence by securely sealing garbage cans and keeping them out of reach.
As the residents of Missouri are reminded of the legal and ethical implications of bear wrestling, it is crucial to prioritize the well-being of both humans and wildlife, ensuring a safe coexistence within our communities.