Bear Referendum Not About Bears


bear_1721930cBy David Trahan – Don’t be fooled by the group calling itself, “Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting” when they tell you this November’s referendum is an attempt to end baiting, trapping and the use of dogs for hunting bears.  This ballot initiative has nothing to do with bears.

Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting is a front for a well-known national an anti-hunting organization: The Humane Society of the United States, or HSUS.

When you see their ads, likely taped many years ago and in another state or when you hear them attack the credibility of Maine’s bear biologists know that their tactics are not new. They are the same for every referendum they initiate around the country. They cleverly use emotion and buzzwords like, cruel and inhumane to make unsubstantiated accusations about hunting and hunters.  They flash cute pictures of bear cubs to create sentimental attachments that distract and confuse people from their real agenda: to end sport hunting.

[Recommended: Astroturf Alert: Out-of-staters against Maine’s hunting tradition…]

Let us refocus on the real battle this November, which is a Clash of the Titans the Conservation Movement initiated in the early 1900s and the newer, early 2000’s extreme Animal Rights Movement led by Wayne Pacelle, Director of the Humane Society of the United States.

I will start with the Conservation Movement.  In the early 1900s, animals like deer, caribou, and ducks were hunted without regulation and sold to food markets in places like Boston and New York.  Our historical archives are lined with photos of deer stacked on railroad cars destined for out of state markets.

Up until the 1950s and mostly because of agricultural damage, bears were killed without limit and the state paid a $15 bounty for each bear killed.  There was no bear license required and no seasons; as a result, anyone could kill cubs, females, young of the year and collect the bounty.

Deep thinkers, men and women of conscience realized a century ago that humans could not kill wildlife in such an arbitrary and consumptive manner and at the same time, also recognized that as a society, we must manage wildlife in a way as to strike a delicate balance between public tolerance of nuisance wildlife and the sustainability of individual wildlife species.

Thus, was born the Conservation movement, led by sportsmen and women.  In the early 1900s a federal law was passed banning the cross border sale of wildlife; in addition, on September 2, 1937, President Roosevelt signed the Pitman Robertson Act.  The Act created an excise tax on outdoor gear like guns, ammunition and archery equipment.  Since 1936, the tax paid by sportsmen has generated two billion dollars of federal-and five hundred million of state matching money that has been used to protect and restore wildlife habitat, develop shooting ranges and rebuild wildlife populations.

The sportsmen’s license fees used as a 3-1 match for Pitman Robertson dollars has built fish and wildlife departments and paid for an army of biologists and game wardens that stretches from Maine to California with the sole mission of protecting and enhancing wildlife.  Ironically, the Pitman-Robertson Act is credited with the successful population recovery of the whitetailed deer, wood duck and the black bear; in addition, PRA money is used to protect and restore endangered species like the Bald Eagle, Piping Plover, Lynx, etc.  Sportsmen and women, through their license fees and 80 years of commitment to sound conservation, have rebuilt our nation’s wildlife populations and protected hundreds of thousands of acres of critical wildlife habitat.

We as sportsmen should not back away from defending our visionary history and the nearly century of protecting wildlife; to the contrary, be proud and as a sportsmen take ownership of the greatest conservation success story of modern times.

Time Magazine recently described this growing wildlife renaissance and national recovery in the provocative story titled,   America’s Pest Problem; Its Time to Cull the Herd.

In a second article in USA Today, Associated Press reporter, Judith Kohler, describes the amazing growth of the black bear population, in addition she describes the challenges of out of control bears from all over the country.

The Humane Society of the United States is going to try and convince Maine people they, the HSUS, are the keepers of our wildlife and they are “our conscience”; on the contrary, their agenda is to tear down the foundation of our nation’s conservation movement-sportsmen.

Why, you ask, would they do such a thing?


Many of their leaders are ant-hunting militants so extreme, they have been arrested for protesting hunting.   Some have even had themselves sterilized as a way to prove their faith and belief in no human population growth as a way to protect animals.  The HSUS opposes all hunting and their leaders are devout vegans, having never hunted a day in their lives.

They are on a crusade to end hunting and replace sound wildlife management with paid taxpayer funded nuisance control agents.  If they get their way, man’s interaction with animals will be that of a spectator.

Next month, in part two of this column, I will chronicle the rise of Wayne Pacelle and the extreme Animal Rights Movement.

David Trahan is a former state lawmaker and the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine

Note: A version of this op-ed was published first in the North Woods Sporting Journal.


  1. Good article. The fact is Bear baiting, hounding, and trapping is not going anywhere in Maine regardless of the outcome of this referendum. The Native Americans will continue these practices on their own lands since this referendum will have no impact on them. Second, hunters will simply travel over the border and hunt bear in Canada. At most all that will happen is we are going to give Canada over 100 million in revenue in exchange for nothing. Brilliant.

  2. I was born and raised in Maine, lived there most of my life and coming home soon, as a kid I l LEARNED TO HUNT hunting deer and bear rabbits ect, the whole point of this referendum is a fair hunt, not paying some guy 1500 bucks sitting in a chair in a tree and shooting anything and 85% of these guided hunts are out of stater’s, paying one guide a chunk of cash so they don’t have to learn how to hunt bear, an animal should be earned, not payed for and no I never got a bear, I’ve seen a half dozen or so but only twice while hunting and I had no shot and I thought one was a sow with cubs so I didn’t shoot, I’d rather hold my head high then to lower myself to going cowardly and paying for it.

  3. HSUS… know what type of crooks these people are…….Serious concerns surrounding HSUS’s tax exempt status originally surfaced in 2011, with six members of Congress requesting the IRS take a closer look at the anti-hunting group. Now, Representative Blaine Luetkemeyer, a Missouri Republican, is calling into question HSUS’s tax exempt status because of substantial political activity conducted by HSUS in Missouri in recent years.

    HSUS is listed as a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, meaning that they are limited in the amount of political lobbying that is permissible under the Internal Revenue Code. In 2010 alone, according to IRS filings, HSUS raised $148,703,820 in revenue. They have been accused of sending less than one percent of those earnings on animal shelters, an accusation that was not denied by HSUS President and CEO, Wayne Pacelle. So what is the rest of HSUS’s income being spent on?

    That is the question that is coming under renewed scrutiny. It’s also why Luetkemeyer wrote a letter both to the IRS Inspector General and Lerner asking for an investigation to determine if HSUS had engaged in excessive lobbying in violation of IRS rules for 501(c)(3) organizations. However, it appears that no such investigation ever took place, thus calling into question whether Lerner ignored these accusations because of her ties to HSUS.

  4. This is utter nonsense. Nobody has been attacked by a bear in Maine since the Civil War. I have spent many decades in the Maine woods, both hunting and hiking, and never seen a bear, although I’ve seen some sign. I have spent many years hiking in the Adirondacks and seen only one bear outside of a dump. On the other hand, the people who are so enthusiastic about baiting bears derive some or all of their income from hunting license sales. They are simply dishonest about the “threat” from bears. Bernd Heinrich knows more about sylvan ecology that all of these enthusiastic baiters, and he has come out against baiting and hounding. If you want to eat bear meat (and it’s very good) go find a bear in its own territory. Baiting bears is like jacking deer or shooting them over a salt lick, or molesting children from an ice-cream wagon, or hunting bankers over a hedge fund. Real sportsmen don’t do it. And really responsible Fish and Game employees would not treat our emergency food supply as a commodity to sell to drunken fools from out-of-state cities.


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