An armed game warden is escorting a Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife official while state police investigate “troubling correspondence” sent to some department employees.

Wildlife Division Director Judy Camuso had an armed game warden by her side Friday when she arrived at a forum on the statewide bear-hunting referendum. The forum, taped at WCSH-TV in conjunction with the Portland Press Herald, was held in a studio without an audience. Earlier this week, she canceled two scheduled public appearances in Bath and Norway, said department spokesman Mark Latti.

Camuso and other IFW employees have played a prominent role in TV commercials and YouTube videos campaigning against the referendum. Question 1 on the Nov. 4 ballot asks 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 State Police began an investigation Friday into messages sent to some IFW employees, spokesman Stephen McCausland said.

“We are investigating troubling correspondence that has been forwarded to some employees of IFW. We will be bringing in new resources to determine if we can determine the source of this correspondence,” McCausland said. “They were troubling. There is no specific danger that was implied to anyone.”

Deputy Commissioner Andrea Erskine confirmed that armed game wardens were escorting Camuso in public this week.

“Given the current circumstances we are ensuring the safety of our employees, and that’s our first concern,” Erskine said.

Camuso was supposed to speak to a woman’s group in Norway on Monday, said Latti, the IFW spokesman, and Wednesday she was expected to participate in a public debate at Bath City Hall that was sponsored by the Merrymeeting Audubon Society. The event was canceled after IFW pulled out.

Other panelists who participated in the forum at the WCSH studio Friday were Cecil Gray, a Master Maine Guide and a member of the coalition Mainers For Fair Bear Hunting, and Wayne Pacelle, CEO and president of the Humane Society of the United States in Washington, D.C. Both represented the Yes on 1 campaign. Representing the No on 1 campaign were Camuso and James Cote, campaign manager for Save Maine’s Bear Hunt and Management Practices.

Camuso arrived in Portland on Friday with Warden Carleton Richardson, who said he was one of several armed wardens escorting Camuso this week.

Pacelle said he is often threatened on animal advocacy issues and events he is working on across the country. He said animal-advocacy issues are emotional, and it’s difficult to determine if a threat is credible.

“I get threats all the time. I got a threat last week where someone threatened my parents in Connecticut,” Pacelle said. “I have become the face of many of these campaigns and therefore am often a target. And in the era of the Internet, people can quickly dash off a threat even if it’s just an impulsive spur-of-the-moment flash of anger.”

Pacelle knew of no threats to anyone in Maine working on the No on 1 campaign.

“We are working to advance our ideals, and would abhor any threat made. We are the victims of frequent threats,” Pacelle said.

David Trahan, the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, learned of the threats when the Bath bear-hunting debate was canceled. He hopes that all of those campaigning on the bear-hunting referendum seek a civilized and safe climate leading up to Election Day.

“I am aware of the threats against the department and they are very disturbing,” Trahan said. “We’re hoping folks will tone down a little this debate. It’s getting a little out of control. We can debate without getting threats against people.”

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