Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting


MYTHS/FACTS ON THE MAINE FAIR BEAR HUNTING ACT

ECONOMIC IMPACT 

MYTH: Bear hounding, baiting, and trapping are vital to the state’s rural economy.

FACT: More people come to Maine to watch wildlife than to kill it. More than 200,000 people travel to Maine every year to view wildlife, spending more than $141 million to do so (1). Wildlife watching tourists in Maine outnumber tourist hunters by more than 7 to 1 and outspend them by more than 5 to 1 in trip-related spending (2). Furthermore, when other states have banned hounding and baiting, interest in fair-chase bear hunting actually increases. For example, since Oregon banned bear hounding and baiting in 1994, bear tag sales have tripled, revenue from bear tag sales has increased by 214%, and nonresident bear tag revenue in the state has doubled (3). In Washington, the number of bear hunters has almost doubled and the number of bear hunters in Colorado has more than tripled since the state prohibited baiting and hounding.

BEAR MANAGEMENT

MYTH: We need aggressive hunting practices to manage the bear population. If we outlaw hounding and baiting, the bear population will explode.

FACT: Hound hunting, baiting and trapping are not needed to control the bear population. Human-bear conflicts are most often caused by garbage and other attractants being made available to bears, and sport hunting does nothing to prevent such conflicts. Other states that opted to ban baiting, hounding, and trapping have maintained relatively stable bear populations and nuisance complaint levels. In Oregon, where hounding and baiting were banned via ballot measure in 1994, the number of nuisance complaints reported the year prior to the ballot measure (436) is virtually identical to the number of complaints (457) lodged in 2011, the most recent year for which data is available. The average number of annual complaints in all the years since voters approved the ban for which data is available (1994-2011) is 495 complaints, despite the fact that Oregon’s human population has increased by roughly a million people during that same time. Oregon’s bear population has remained stable at around 25-30,000 bears since the ban. In Washington, where baiting and hounding were prohibited in 1996, the bear population (25-30,000) and nuisance complaints (300-500 annually) have also remained relatively stable, even though the state’s human population has soared from around 5 million in 1996 to nearly 7 million in 2011 (4). Moreover, if hounding, baiting and trapping are prohibited and fair-chase is restored to the sport, it’s likely there will be more bear hunters in the long term. States like Oregon, Washington, and Colorado have seen a substantial long-term growth in the number of bear hunters and higher bear harvests following the ban [see above under Economic Impact for specific data documenting the drastic increases].

MYTH: Hound hunting and baiting are more selective practices because houndsmen and bait hunters can better determine sex and age of a treed bear before killing the animal.

FACT: This is completely false. Hound and bait hunters are no better than other hunters in determining the sex and age of a bear. When a bear is dozens of feet up a tree, often with the view obstructed by tree branches and leaves, it is very difficult to get a good look at the bear. One researcher studying Maine bear hunting methods “suggested that it was difficult for even experienced observers to judge the size of a treed bear, so that hound hunting was not necessarily more selective for males" (5).

Studies show that in viewing bears, there is no discernible difference between a lactating female or non-lactating female. Sows hold very little milk and it’s even difficult for a biologist handling a dead bear at a check-in station to tell whether the female bear has cubs (6). Nursing female black bears often forage at great distances from their cubs. When pursued by hounds, the female bear usually leaves the cubs in a tree and continues eluding the hounds. When she trees, she is seldom with her cubs (7). 

Dewey McGowen, a former bear hunting guide who is currently employed in the hunting industry, observed in a recently published article that since the state of Oregon prohibited the use of hounds to pursue bears, fewer bears with cubs are killed. He explained: “When a mom bear is threatened, she will chase her cubs up a tree to come back for them later. When hounds are chasing the bear, the mom hides the cubs and gets treed herself. So when then hunter sees a bear in the tree, it is hard to tell if she has cubs or not" (8). Data confirm that fair chase bear hunting can, in fact, be more selective with fewer female bears killed. In Washington, fewer female bears were killed in the five years after the ban on baiting and hounding than the five years before the ban (9). Oregon followed the same trend after their ban. Oregon data also shows that allowing baiting and hounding had no impact on hunters’ ability to determine the age of a bear—there was no change in the median age of harvested bears after the ban (10).

MYTH: Maine’s woods are too thick to hunt bears without bait or hounds.

FACT: Instead of dogs wearing high-tech collars and piles of bait, Maine bear hunters will simply use more traditional scouting techniques, monitoring areas of natural food availability and stalk or stand hunting. Tom Beck, retired bear biologist with the Colorado Parks and Wildlife Department states: “What aggravates me most is that wildlife professionals accept the hunters' claim that bears can't be hunted without bait. Every [bear baiting] state says its woods are ‘too thick.' I don't believe anyone who says you can't hunt bears in the fall when they're on berries or nuts. You can predict where they're going to be, and if you're a woodsman, all you have to do is scout those places. After we banned baiting, it took only two years for our hunters to get to the point where they were killing more bears than they were before. They learned how to do it. There was this large pool of hunters convinced—mostly by the outfitters— that you had to hunt with bait or hounds. These guys didn't want to spend the money on hounds, and they were opposed to using bait. When they learned the truth, the number of bear hunters skyrocketed" (11). 

MYTH: Hounding, baiting, and trapping help resolve human-wildlife conflicts by tracking down problem wild animals who threaten public safety or livestock.

FACT: Taking of bears for depredation purposes is a completely different type of activity toward which hunting contributes little if anything. Hound hunters and trappers typically target bears deep in the woods, not those coming into contact with human populations. Hounding, baiting, and trapping do not address human-wildlife conflicts, which are most often caused by garbage and other attractants being made available to bears (12).

MYTH: This act would prevent people from being able to protect themselves, pets, beehives, crops, livestock or property.

FACT: Under Maine law (Title 12 §12401) people are already allowed to kill any wild animal that is attacking or “worrying” domestic animals or private property. Title 12 §12402 also allows take of bears that are damaging crops or orchards. Title 12 §12404 allow the commissioner to issue a permit to “protect beehives that are being damaged by bear.” This section also allows the commissioner to suspend game laws related to bears in certain areas to address bear “damage” to crops or corn. The proposed ballot initiative leaves all these existing laws in place. Also, under the act, state or federal government employees working in their official capacity could take a specific “offending” bear where necessary via baiting, hunting with dogs, or trapping in response to a “bona fide threat to, livestock, domestic animals, threatened or endangered wildlife, or public safety.”

MYTH: This bill would ban the use of baiting and hounding in research.

FACT: The Act specifically exempts the use of such techniques for valid research purposes.

QUICK & HUMANE KILL

MYTH: The close range of shooting a bear in a tree, trap, or over bait makes the killing quick and humane.

FACT: Hounding, baiting, and trapping are unequivocally inhumane and unsporting methods of killing bears. With respect to hounding, once the bear is in the tree, she has already endured a terrifying and exhausting chase by a pack of dogs. Shooting exhausted, frightened bears from tree branches at point-blank range is not humane, nor is it sporting. The initial shot may not kill the animals, and the animal may fall from a high branch or be mauled by the dogs. Even bears killed over bait may not be killed immediately and if they flee from the hunter, they may suffer for hours before succumbing to their injuries. When captured in a trap, a bear’s instinct is to break free, which can lead to extensive injuries. Trappers have even reported bears chewing off their own paws to free themselves (13). Since these traps must be checked only once per day, the bear could be suffering for hours in excruciating pain until the trapper returns. 

HOUNDING 

MYTH: Hounding is a natural, traditional form of hunting.

FACT: Bear hounding uses high-tech, unsporting equipment that violates traditional hunting ethics, giving all hunting a bad image. There is nothing “natural” or traditional about releasing packs of dogs outfitted with GPS devices to run down bears. There is no sport involved in following a GPS signal with a handheld computer to find frightened and exhausted bears and shooting them off tree limbs. Montana, the state with the second largest state hunting participation rate of any state in the nation, has banned the use of dogs to hunt bear since 1921, boasting that it “offers world renowned, fair-chase black bear hunting” (emphasis added) (14).

MYTH: Hound hunting is just a “catch and release” sport. Most houndsmen don’t shoot the bear they tree.

FACT: While some houndsmen do pass on shooting a bear they’ve treed, it is often because they want to save their one annual bear hunting tag for a bigger bear—they talk about it all the time in online hunting forums. Regardless, even if some hunters opt not to kill the animal, the chase is perhaps the most inhumane and reckless part of the whole practice. During the chase, terrified bears or other wildlife may be brutally injured or even killed by the pack of hounds while trying to escape. Hounds can also be seriously injured or killed in the process.

MYTH: Hound hunters only use radio and GPS collars to track down lost dogs.

FACT: Radio telemetry and GPS equipment allows hound hunters to more easily locate and kill bears. While such devices may also help hunters recover lost dogs, the hounds are only placed in the woods in the first place for the purpose of finding the bear for the hunter.

MYTH: Hound hunting dogs are well cared for, even treated “like family.”

FACT: Hounding leads to dog welfare problems and a drain on animal sheltering resources. Viewed more as hunting equipment than beloved members of the family, hunting hounds often live in pens or are tethered outdoors. They may become lost in the chase and are sometimes never recovered. They may be struck by vehicles, die as a result of dehydration or confrontations with wildlife, or be abandoned at local animal shelters. Shelters can be overburdened with abandoned hunting dogs, particularly in rural areas during and at the end of the hunting season.

MYTH: Hunting hounds are well trained to only chase bears.

FACT: When dogs who live most of their lives in pens are released into the wilderness to pursue wild animals, the dogs may harm or kill wild animals, including threatened species, trespass onto private property, or be injured or killed by the animal they pursue. While hound hunters may spend time training their hounds to track prey, they cannot control the animals once they are loose in the woods.

MYTH: Hounds are bred to chase and harass bears; hound hunting just fulfills their natural instincts.

FACT: There are hounds all across the country happily living as family pets. Almost every dog breed in America was once bred for some type of work and most now serve as companion animals. There are plenty of ways for hounds to get the appropriate amount of exercise without putting their lives at risk or torturing other wildlife. 

MYTH: Hound hunting doesn’t cause stress to the wild animals, who simply climb trees to escape the dogs.

FACT: Being chased by barking, snarling dogs is inherently stressful and dangerous to wildlife. Hounds can maul bears when they catch them on the ground. Chases can separate mothers from their dependent young, who may perish as a result. Loose hounds may kill other wildlife or domestic animals.

MYTH: This ban on hounding would affect other types of hunting with dogs, such as bird dogs.

FACT: This legislation only impacts bear hounding. It does not impact bird dog hunting which is fundamentally different from hounding. Bird dogs are used to retrieve or “flush” game and hunting with bird dogs is completely absent of the terrifying and often hours-long chase that characterizes hound hunting.

Notes

1. http://www.census.gov/prod/2008pubs/fhw06-me.pdf(U.S. Fish and Wildlife National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Related Recreation, 2006)
2. http://www.census.gov/prod/2008pubs/fhw06-me.pdf(U.S. Fish and Wildlife National Survey of Fishing, Hunting, and Wildlife-Related Recreation, 2006)
3. Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife Data, obtained through FOIA.
4. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2008. 2009-2015 Game Management Plan. Wildlife Program, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia, Washington, USA. Retrieved June 03 2013 from http://wdfw.wa.gov/publications/00433/wdfw00433.pdf
5. Elowe, K.D. 1990. Bear hunting with hounds: techniques and effects on bears and the public. Proceedings of the Eastern Workshop on Black Bear Research and Management 10:101-109. Quote from Boulay et. al., p. 183.
6. Western Black Bear workshop, sociological and ethical considerations of black bear hunting, 1995
7. Western Black Bear workshop, sociological and ethical considerations of black bear hunting, 1995
8. http://www.wenatcheeworld.com/news/2012/aug/25/bears-abundant-but-hunt-not-easy/
9. Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife. 2008. 2009-2015 Game Management Plan. Wildlife Program, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, Olympia, Washington, USA.
10. Oregon Black Bear Management Plan. 2012, September 10. Oregon Dept of Fish and Wildlife. Retrieved May 15, 2013 from: http://www.dfw.state.or.us/wildlife/management_plans/docs/Black_Bear_Management_Plan_2012.pdf
11. Williams, Ted. 2005. “Bad News Bear Hunters.” Audubon Magazine. Retrieved June 10 2013 from: http://archive.audubonmagazine.org/incite/incite0509.html
12. For example see a recent Wisconsin study by Treves, A., K. Kapp and D.M. MacFarland that found “hunting does not reduce future nuisance complaints.” Source: “American black bear nuisance complaints and hunter take.” Ursus 21(1):30–42 (2010), p. 38.
13. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/05/19/AR2007051900315.html
14. Foreword, “Black Bear Harvest Research and Management in Montana: 2011 Final Report.” Mace, Richard D. and Tonya Chilton-Radant. Montana Fish, Wildlife & Parks Wildlife Division. Retrieved June 01 2013 from http://fwp.mt.gov/fwpDoc.html?id=50731.

 


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Wildlife Alliance of Maine
Animal Welfare Society
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Maine Friends of Animals
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Coastal Humane Society
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Halfway Home Pet Rescue

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Media

Maine Bear Hunting Reform Narrowly Rejected by Voters

Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting expressed disappointment about the election results on Question 1, but thanked more than a quarter million Mainers who voted to end bear baiting, hounding, and trapping.

"We are grateful to so many Maine voters for supporting this proposed reform, and we look forward to working with them and with ‘no’ and non-voters to outlaw the practices of bear hounding and trapping, because we believe there’s substantial agreement on that issue."

Read more here »

View all media here »




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