In November, voters can put an end to three heinous practices used to kill Maine’s bears for recreation: baiting, trapping, and hounding. When passed, the ballot measure will end Maine’s shameful distinction as the only state that sanctions all three of these particularly cruel practices. The measure would restore fair chase to Maine’s bear hunt.

A former hunter told me that witnessing the profound pain and terror of a bear that was trapped, and then shot, at a baited site disturbed him so deeply that he never hunted again.

Bear trophy hunters, and the camps that market to them, are not so sensitive. For $2,000, one camp promises that shooting a snare-trapped bear lured to a bait site loaded with donuts and grease will be an “exhilarating adrenaline rush.” Another brags, “We don’t just bait our bears, we feed them. … You’ll enjoy sitting over our active baits.”

Bear baiting is not only inhumane and unsporting; it is ineffective for controlling bear populations because abundant human food increases fertility rates and cub survival. Nonetheless, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife and the “hunters” and guides with whom it is cozy, want to persuade us that strewing millions of pounds of junk food across Maine’s wild areas is responsible bear management, a noble tradition, and vital to our economy.

After Oregon, Washington, and Colorado banned bear baiting, fair-chase hunting increased and bear populations stabilized. Cruelty is never noble, and economic activity based on it should not be justified. Show compassion. Vote yes on Question 1.

Karen Coker
Cape Elizabeth