While in town to perform his stand-up act at the Merrill Auditorium, comedian, television host and political commentator Bill Maher heard about the referendum on the November ballot – Yes! on 1 – to prohibit the baiting, hounding and trapping of bears. He offered the following statement:
“I can’t believe in Maine there are people who put almost 7 million pounds of rotting food, pizza and jelly donuts in their woods each year to lure bears to a bait site, trap them with cruel wire snares and then kill them at close range. How can you call that hunting? That is nothing but an execution. That is almost 70 million pounds of garbage in the last decade alone. Being the only state in the entire country to continue all three of these inhumane hunting practices – I’d say it’s time for a change. Mainers, vote YES on Question 1 and replace those millions of pounds of garbage with the millions of dollars the state will make from tourists going to Maine to see the pristine woods – not garbage dumps.”
Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, a coalition of state and national groups, environmental and animal organizations, animal shelters and rescue groups, hunters, veterinarians, businesses, community and faith leaders and independent biologists, encourages Mainers to take Mr. Maher’s advice and Vote YES on Question 1.
- With vast amounts of junk food readily available in their environment, bears increase in size, and mother bears have greater reproductive success and greater cub survival, which unnaturally increases bear population – the very thing that state officials are trying to reverse.
- In 2004, when a similar measure to prohibit bear baiting, hounding and trapping was put before Maine voters, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife warned the public that if the measure passed, then the bear population would increase. However, the measure did not pass and with the continued baiting of bears, the population has increased 30 percent in the last 10 years.
- Baiting changes bears’ behaviors, habituates them to human food sources and reduces their natural fear of humans, which increases the likelihood of negative interactions with people. IF&W rightly issues stern warnings to the public to keep food away from bears every year, in an attempt to reduce these bear-human conflicts.
- Bait piles concentrate animals, including raccoons and other species, in areas that become significant disease-transfer sites, which exacerbates the spread of infection between animals. Biologists are particularly concerned with the spread of rabies at baited zones.
- Voters in Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington approved similar ballot measures in past elections.
- After prohibiting bear baiting at the ballot, Colorado officials 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.”
- Four years into Colorado’s ban on baiting, Tom Beck, a hunter and a former bear biologist with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, wrote 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."