Bears are beloved creatures in Maine, the mascot of the University of Maine since 1914. Maine is the only state to allow statewide hounding, baiting, and commercial trapping of bears, cruel and unethical practices that do not reflect Maine values. It’s time for fair bear hunting. The Maine Fair Bear Hunting Act would align Maine with much of the rest of the country by enacting the following long-overdue protections for the bear population and preserving traditional Maine hunting.
End Maine’s status as the only state that allows bears to be cruelly trapped
Bear trapping is so unsporting, inhumane, and unnecessary that Maine is the only state left in the country that still allows it for sport. Trappers typically bait the bears with an unnatural diet of grease and pastries to attract them to a particular spot in the woods. There is absolutely no fair chase involved. A bear’s instinct is to break free from these foot snare traps, which can lead to extensive injuries to the animals. Trappers have even reported bears chewing off their own paws to free themselves (1). Since these traps must be checked only once per day, the bear could be suffering for hours in excruciating pain.
Protect property rights and preserve fair-chase by ending the cruelty of bear “hounding”
A mere 12% of bears killed in Maine are taken via an unsporting and unnecessary method known as “hounding.” This practice involves fitting packs of trained dogs with radio collars or high-tech GPS transmitters that allow bear houndsmen to remotely track the dogs' movement, on high-tech computer screens. Dogs are released to chase frightened bear often for miles, across all types of habitat, including private property. Dogs pursue their target until in exhaustion the bear climbs a tree to escape or turns to confront the dog pack. Shooters then use their high-tech devices to locate the bears who are typically shot out of the tree at close range. If the bear doesn’t make it to the tree in time, a fight will likely ensue and the bear may be ripped apart by the pack of dogs and/or the dogs mauled or killed.
End the biologically reckless and unsporting practice of baiting
Baiting is a relatively new phenomenon that started in the early 1980s when unsportsmanlike individuals starting shooting bears who had congregated at garbage dumps. Baiting involves luring unsuspecting bears to an unnatural diet of rotting meat, pizza, and donuts. The bear is shot at close range while her head is buried in the piles of bait. State and federal wildlife agencies, including the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, give strong warnings to the public to keep food away from bears, but then carve out a special exception for those seeking bear trophies. Tom Beck, a hunter and a former bear biologist with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, says of baiting, "I firmly believe that baiting creates 'nuisance' bears…Black bears are naturally wary, instinctively avoiding close contact with humans. But large amounts of tasty food, easily obtained defeats this wariness. By baiting, we create lazy bears who have been rewarded, not punished, for overcoming their fear of humans" (2). Baiting also unnaturally concentrates wildlife species, increasing the likelihood of spreading dangerous diseases. Scientific evidence shows that an unnatural diet—like that used to bait bears—can lead to higher reproduction rates (3). It is absurd and completely unnecessary to use a practice to kill bears that actually leads to an increase in their population.
Bears are shy creatures that avoid human contact; the Maine Fair Bear Hunting Act would stop the unnecessary, recreational abuse of our state’s bears
No one has ever been killed or even seriously injured by a Maine bear. In the US, bear attacks are so rare that you’re far more likely to be killed by lightning or bees (4,5). The Maine Fair Bear Hunting Act only affects recreational baiting, hounding, and trapping—it exempts baiting, hounding, and trapping for research purposes and also exempts these methods for the take of bears in the interest of public safety or to protect public or private property, endangered or threatened species, livestock, or pets.
Historical data proves that restoring fair chase hunting is economically beneficial and bear populations remain stable
Colorado, Washington, and Oregon all prohibited baiting and hounding more than 20 years ago and the number of bear hunters has risen significantly in all three states by an average of 289% (6). Bear take has increased in these states as well. Reporting on the effects of prohibiting bear baiting and hounding, Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s equivalent in Colorado said,“[T]he passage of the 1992 initiative has had no detectable adverse effects on bear hunting or bear management in Colorado. It has shown clearly that a black bear population can be efficiently and effectively managed without recourse to bait, hounds, or spring season. Hunters have learned to effectively hunt and harvest bears without using these methods and the Colorado Division of Wildlife has seen a significant increase in revenue resulting from increased interest in bear hunting.”
2. Canadian Cooperative Wildlife Health Centre, 2003. A Comprehensive Review of the Ecological and Human Social Effects of Artificial Feeding and Baiting of Wildlife.
3. Rogers, LL, DW Kuehn, AW Erickson, EM Harger, LJ Verme, and JJ Ozoga. 1974. Characteristics and management of black bears that feed in garbage dumps, campgrounds or residential areas. In: 3rd Conference Proceedings of the IBA - Bears--Their Biology and Management, Binghamton/Moscow, 1974.
6. Bear take data obtained from respective state wildlife agencies.