August 25, 2013

Maine's bear hunting practices back in the crosshairs

Almost 10 years after failing to abolish baiting and other methods, animal-welfare activists want to revisit the debate: Are these cruel or are they viable wildlife management tools?

By Deirdre Fleming
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

click image to enlarge

A black bear walks past an empty bait barrel in the Moose River Valley of the Jackman area of Maine during the 2010 hunting season. Bait barrels hold trail mix made of raisins, dried fruit and nuts, granola and doughnuts, said Steve Beckwith, a longtime Maine hunter and hunting guide. Opponents of bear baiting are seeking to ban the practice, saying it’s cruel and gives hunters an unfair advantage.

Courtesy of

click image to enlarge

Additional Photos Below

Related headlines

"It's not a happy thing for us, but I am happy now that my son did that (accepted the job out West). A referendum is only money. Whoever has the most money wins. It's cash that counts," Bosowitz said. "We (in Maine) have the greatest wildlife biologists in the nation in regard to bear. Their work is a model. So I guess my one-liner is: If we are not going to pay attention to these folks, then why do we have them?"

Trahan, at the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine, also said the biggest difference between today's debate and 2004 is that opponents of the ban will need more money, and the statewide bear population is at a record level for modern times. Other states provide an example of what a ban might mean, he said.

"I don't think anything's different. Except nuisance complaints have grown across the country -- and what happened in New Jersey, where they didn't have a bear hunt for 30 years. Then the bears started walking into homes. New Jersey can become the test tube for what happens without a bear hunt," Trahan said.

After New Jersey ended bear hunting in 1971, the black bear population went from fewer than 100 to as many as 2,500. Complaints about bears increased, and the state resumed the hunt in 2003, according to the Wildlife Research Institute in Minnesota.

Trahan estimates the sportsmen's group forming to oppose the ban must raise more than $2 million or the ban will succeed.

"I think we have the grass-roots and the issue. I think we can win this. We just need to prove to the public we need bear management," Trahan said. "I think Maine people are savvy and understand the issues. They live with animals and know how important it is to manage wildlife. They get it."

Bob Day, who runs a bait company in Alfred, comes from a family of bear hunters. He built the bait company over 12 years, mostly as a hobby, after he retired as a mason.

Day said the ballot initiative would hurt Maine in a number of significant ways: from the lost economic impact from hunting to an increasing bear population.

"Bears are everywhere now, in Biddeford and in Portland," Day said. "The state should set a two-bear limit, not take away hunting methods. Do they have any idea how many game wardens will be needed to keep bears away from homes?"

In Bingham, near the Quebec border, guide Bob Howe has guided disabled veterans on hunts, fishing trips and adventures for 14 years. Howe said if the ballot measure passes it will destroy a significant part of the state's hunting tradition.

"The people from away are trying to come here and manage our wildlife. We have people who manage them -- they're called biologists. And they know about bears and how to manage the population way better than someone from Philadelphia or New York," Howe said. "If they took the millions of dollars spent on this and put it into research and development of wildlife management, it would be a lot better spent." 

Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

Twitter: Flemingpph

Were you interviewed for this story? If so, please fill out our accuracy form

Send question/comment to the editors

Additional Photos

click image to enlarge

These three photographs of a black bear at a bait bucket were captured by a hunter’s trail camera in 2008. Maine hunters and guides call the practice an efficient way to bag bears in a densely forested state.

Photos courtesy Days Bear Bait in Alfred

click image to enlarge

click image to enlarge

click image to enlarge

A black bear nibbles on some meat near Greenville. A coalition led by the Maine chapter of the Humane Society of the United States aims to collect as many as 80,000 signatures next month to get a referendum question on bear-hunting practices on Maine’s 2014 ballot.

1998 file photo/The Associated Press

click image to enlarge

Katie Hansberry of the Maine chapter of the Humane Society hands out pamphlets at the farmers market in Portland’s Deering Oaks park Saturday. Animal-welfare advocates want to ban three bear-hunting methods: baiting; using dogs; and using snare traps.

Gordon Chibroski/Staff Photographer


Further Discussion

Here at we value our readers and are committed to growing our community by encouraging you to add to the discussion. To ensure conscientious dialogue we have implemented a strict no-bullying policy. To participate, you must follow our Terms of Use.

Questions about the article? Add them below and we’ll try to answer them or do a follow-up post as soon as we can. Technical problems? Email them to us with an exact description of the problem. Make sure to include:
  • Type of computer or mobile device your are using
  • Exact operating system and browser you are viewing the site on (TIP: You can easily determine your operating system here.)