Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting


Editorial: Bear baiting

Black bears are Maine’s largest predators — at least until the polar bears arrive, owing to global warming. Black bears are more docile than their bigger cousins, grizzly bears and polar bears, and with few exceptions, are more of a nuisance than a real danger.

Some of the nuisances are things like breaking into cars for food, pawing through garbage cans, and eating food left outside for cats.

But they are big, and can be dangerous, especially now, as they emerge hungry from hibernation, and mother bears are protecting cubs.

Which is all the more reason why we should leave them strictly alone.

Bears are hunted in Maine in a variety of ways, including bear baiting, dogs, and traps. When a bear is baited, if it doesn’t step into the trap the humans set, the bear becomes habituated to human food. After all, it is a human being who is leaving those stale day-old donuts for the bear, and somewhere in town, there is a trash can or a car with a donut box in it calling his name.

We are encountering more nuisance bears? How can that be a surprise to anyone? We are practically inviting them into the kitchen.

This is to say nothing of the horror of how bears are actually hunted; terrified by packs of dogs, some of whom may not survive the “hunt” themselves, chased down until the dogs tear it apart. Or, lured by those donuts, the bear stumbles into a trap, where it may remain in pain and suffering for days until the hunter shows up with a gun to dispatch the helpless creature.

Bears are too intelligent, and too important to the health of the ecosystem, to be treated so callously. Bears are needed to keep the deer and wild boar population in check; bears will dispatch sick deer and excess feral pigs, keeping their herds healthy.

But bears are more likely to consume grubs, other insects, and vegetative matter, including berries and nuts, and fish, at least while they’re in the wild.

We aren’t going to have too many bears, despite what hunting groups insist. Bear populations are subject to the same pressures other animal species face, and their own young are often prey for bobcats, coyotes, and other male bears. In other states that have restricted baiting and trapping, they have seen bear populations stabilize and fewer encounters in towns and cities.

Baiting bears, especially, is a foolhardy thing to do. Bear baiting encourages bear forays into populated areas, where they do become a problem for farmers, poultry-keepers, and anyone who isn’t careful with their trash storage or compost.

We recommend changes to Maine’s bear hunting laws. At least, we believe, bears deserve a sporting chance, and that doesn’t usually mean a box of jelly donuts and a bear trap while the animal waits helplessly for certain death.

But those of us who live in town must take responsibility, too. Don’t feed pets outdoors, and don’t keep animal feed outdoors. Make sure trash is in a bear-proof container. Don’t put meat scraps in compost. If you grow fruit, make sure the fruit is picked up off the ground as soon as it falls. Remove fast food wrappers and other trash from your car. Bring in bird feeders and hummingbird feeders at night. Make sure poultry and beehives are 150 feet away from any wooded area. Keep your cats in at night.

Don’t give bears any reason to visit you.

And vote to restrict bear baiting in November. 


Endorsements

Wildlife Alliance of Maine
Animal Welfare Society
Spay Maine
Maine Friends of Animals
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA)
Coastal Humane Society
Animal Refuge League
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)
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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