Wayne Pacelle didn’t mince his words the day after Maine voters defeated a bear-hunting referendum for the second time in 10 years.

“We will be back,” said the CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, the Washington, D.C.-based animal rights group that poured $2 million into the campaign backing Question 1 on Tuesday’s statewide ballot.

“We will stick with this issue,” Pacelle said. “I am not promising another ballot initiative yet, but by one means or another, we will press the case. We have stuck with many fights for years before we prevailed.”

Question 1 asked voters: “Do you want to ban the use of bait, dogs or traps in bear hunting except to protect property, public safety or for research?” Maine is the only state that allows all three bear-hunting practices.

With 99 percent of precincts reporting by Wednesday evening, the referendum had been rejected by 53 percent to 47 percent. That’s the same margin of defeat for a similar referendum in 2004.

Mainers For Fair Bear Hunting, the referendum’s proponent, received 97 percent of its funding from the Humane Society. Just 3 percent – $59,717 – came from Maine donors, according to the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.

The coalition of groups fighting to defeat the referendum raised $2.8 million, 39 percent of it within Maine. The other 61 percent – $1.7 million – came from sportsmen and conservation groups in 41 states.

No on 1 Campaign Manager James Cote said support from these groups was a big reason the ballot measure was defeated. Maine, he said, has become a political battleground for hunting traditions.

Members of outdoor groups from across the country said Wednesday that Maine’s bear-hunting referendum fight was their fight, too.

“This is not a bear-hunting issue. This is a hunting issue,” said Dan Dessecker, national director of conservation policy with the Ruffed Grouse Society in Wisconsin. “(The Humane Society) will pick their targets carefully but continue to attack hunting. That is the ultimate goal, and it’s not to the benefit of wildlife.”

Joel Pederson, the National Wildlife Turkey Federation’s director of land policy in South Carolina, said the group’s members, who donated $20,000 to the No on 1 campaign, feared that if the referendum passed in Maine, bids to ban hunting methods might pass in other states as well.

“We saw (Maine) as a place where, if we could fend them off, we could hold them back a little. But we expect they’ll be back,” Pederson said.

Pacelle, however, said the biggest factor in the referendum’s defeat was the role played by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. State wildlife biologists and game wardens opposed the referendum in TV commercials and on YouTube videos on the department’s website.

University of Maine political science professor Mark Brewer said IFW’s involvement helped defeat Question 1.

“There is no question about it,” Brewer said. “Once the game wardens and biologists came out in opposition, explaining why they opposed it, that really did influence a lot of Mainers who maybe weren’t terribly educated on the issue. I also think the Yes on 1 side was really hurt by the fact that the force behind them was perceived as from away, that it really was an outside effort imposing outside views on the people of Maine. Being viewed as from away is not good in Maine politics.”

Pacelle, in examining the voting results, said he saw pockets of Maine where voters may have been confused by the wording of the ballot measure. York County, he said, was one example.

In 2004, 54 percent of the 107,520 voters in York towns supported the measure, compared with 52 percent of 86,169 York voters who turned out this year. In 2004, York residents made up just 8 percent of Maine’s voters, compared with 15 percent this year.

“In York County we needed to do much better. And we didn’t for whatever reason. The opposition put a lot of money into southern Maine, and I think it worked to confuse people,” Pacelle said.

“We are certainly not putting our tail between our legs,” he said. “I feel an emerging consensus among Mainers that bear trapping and hounding are unacceptable. We are stronger than ever in our commitment to a group of people who want to advance the principals of the humane treatment of animals and fair hunting.”

Pacelle said all three bear-hunting methods he sought to ban through the referendum are unfair and unsporting, but trapping and hounding are particularly barbaric. He indicated these two methods might be more of a focus for the Humane Society when it returns to Maine in the future.

The use of bait accounted for 72 percent of the 2,845 bears killed by hunters in 2013, compared with 17 percent taken by hunters with hounds and 4 percent with traps, according to the state. Another 7 percent were killed through unreported methods or stalking.

“Obviously, animal cruelty is a sweet spot for our organization,” Pacelle said, “and stopping trapping and hounding are very much central to our thinking.”