Clay Newcomb, BHM Publisher
October 27th, 2014
On November 4th Maine voters will go to the polls to decide if baiting, trapping and hound hunting for bears should remain in their state. This might seem insignificant if you’ve never hunted bears in Maine, however, if you are a sportsman anywhere in North American, this is your fight too.
The Humane Society of United States (HSUS) has an overall agenda to stop all types of sport hunting in North America. The HSUS is responsible for putting the bear referendum on the ballot in Maine. This wasn’t an “in-state” generated movement, but rather an opportunity seized by HSUS. They’ve brought in outside money and have been influencing voters in the urban population hubs of Maine through hype and emotion-filled propaganda falsely labeling these types of bear hunting.
The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, Maine’s state wildlife agency, is in staunch and open disapproval of the referendum. Here is the real question that needs to be answered in many states: Who should get to decide how to manage the state’s wildlife - the uniformed masses or the biologists that have dedicated their life to wildlife conservation?
Money and marketing can easily influence those who don’t care or have no vested interest in the matter. Unfortunately, in a democracy sometimes it’s these people that get to make the decisions. Those who don’t care (or are misinformed) often outnumber those who do care (and have the facts).
Bear hunting with bait, hounds and trapping is the only way to effectively manage the bear population in Maine. In recent years, around 2% of the total bear harvest was taken by trapping. Modern trapping methods simply hold the bear with a foothold snare, not causing excess pain. Traps are able to be set so that younger bears aren’t captured and older, larger bears can be targeted.
Hunting over bait is the most effective method of bear harvest in Maine. Hunting bears over bait is a very challenging hunt. It has been proven not to habituate bears to humans (the case of the HSUS).
Hound hunting is the one of the most selective harvest tools available to bear hunters. Modern houndsmen are more apt to leave a younger bear in the tree to run another day and target only the larger bears. Houndsmen are dedicated sportsman that have worked hard to repair the false, negative image often portrayed by those who’ve never partaken in the chase.
Even with these methods in place only 25% of Maine bear hunters are successful. On average hunters spend 15 days to harvest one bear. If these methods are taken away from hunters, Maine will lose its ability to manage its bear population.
Maine’s bear population is increasing and now is estimated at 30,000 bears – the largest bear population of any state in North America. A 2004 estimated suggested that over 900 people are employed in Maine through bear hunting and it brings in over 60 million dollars annually into the sensitive economy of the rural state. Maine’s biologist say hunters need to harvest between 3,500 and 4,500 bears per year to keep the population from expanding too much. The average harvest since 2005 has been 2,910 bears annually (this is with baiting, trapping and hound hunting).
At Bear Hunting Magazine we are optimistic and believe that truth will prevail in the vote on November 4th. Many organizations have put in a tremendous of amount of energy and effort. Even this late in the game they still could use our donations. Go to www.savemainesbearhunt.com to give to the fight. We will keep you posted on the referendum. Long live the hunt – because it makes sense.