It’s 10 years later, and opponents of fair-chase bear hunting are still spouting half-truths and tired rhetoric, relying on scare tactics rather than facts. This time around, though, don’t fall for it. Know that bear baiting, hounding and trapping are cruel and unsporting, and Maine is the only state to still allow all three extreme methods.

There’s an additional decade of data demonstrating that our current system is one of bear mismanagement, incapable of meeting its objectives. The growth of our bear population hasn’t stabilized, or even slowed. In fact, it’s doing just the opposite. Since 2004, thanks to the dumping of an estimated 7 million pounds of pizza, jelly doughnuts and other junk food in our woods each year, the bear population has grown 30 percent and nuisance complaints have increased 25 percent.

Colorado, Oregon and Washington state have effectively managed their bear populations after banning all of these practices – with their bear populations and bear-human conflicts remaining stable.

What’s more, the number of bear hunting licenses doubled or tripled in these states, engaging many more hunters in fair-chase bear hunts and generating more revenue.

Responsible and humane bear management works. In Oregon, the revenue from bear tag sales increased by 214 percent.

Doug Cottam, biologist with the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, explains the interest in fair chase: “Here on the coast, in this jungle, the houndsmen and using bait was how it was traditionally done, because hiking and spotting them here seemed almost impossible … Hunters have adjusted.”


He continues, “If you know what you’re looking for and where to go, you can hunt bears effectively without bait or hounds.”

Baiting is not a solution to bear-human conflict – it is a major source of the problem. Bear population growth is regulated by the amount of food in their environment. By adding millions of pounds of garbage and billions of fattening calories, we’re increasing reproductive rates and growing a bear population that is conditioned to seek out human food. That’s why every responsible wildlife agency says, “Don’t feed the bears.”

It’s no surprise that as baiting has increased in Maine, so has the bear population – by 30 percent in just the last decade alone. Baiting is precisely the worst way to manage bears if you want to minimize conflicts with people.

Colorado Parks and Wildlife biologist Jerry Apker estimates that Colorado’s black bear population has risen from around 15,000 in 1992 – the year a measure passed to ban hounding and baiting – to 18,000 today. That’s a growth rate of less than 1 percent per year. Oregon and Washington’s bear populations have also stabilized at 25,000 to 35,000 (a population size similar to Maine) since prohibiting baiting and hounding nearly 20 years ago.

Restoring fair chase will draw sportsmen to the challenge and increase interest in the sport, as it has in other states. With fair-chase hunters in the woods, we can effectively manage the bear population and successfully keep nuisance complaint levels in check. Question 1 specifically allows the use of these methods to protect public safety, property or for research. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife and residents will still have these tools to address legitimate nuisance concerns and to keep people, pets, livestock and property safe.

The DIFW is supposed to manage our wildlife based on sound science, but it’s not an impartial expert agency – it’s a government bureaucracy that caters to the whims of the guides and outfitters who offer guaranteed kills. The DIFW should serve Mainers, rather than use our tax dollars telling us how to vote to support its political agenda. This overreaching involvement by bureaucrats in state elections undermines our democratic rights.

In Maine, we value our wildlife and our hunting heritage and there’s a reason we don’t bait, hound or trap other game species – these practices don’t constitute hunting. Hunters are not allowed to bait, hound or trap deer or moose, and shouldn’t be allowed to do it for bears. When it comes to bear management, the DIFW is an outlier on this issue – no other state allows all three of these cruel and unsporting practices, and for good reason.

It’s particularly cruel to trap a bear in a snare and allow it to suffer for hours until the trapper returns to shoot it at point-blank range. It’s unfair to shoot a bear out of a tree after it’s been pursued to exhaustion by packs of remotely tracked dogs. And it stinks to shoot a bear over a pile of garbage that it’s been trained to return to day after day. Hunting is a Maine tradition, but cruelty is not.

— Special to the Press Herald

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