Black bears are becoming a national menace as well as a serious threat to public safety and private property, and exacerbating this problem is the Humane Society of the United States and its radical, Pollyanna belief that bears can be managed without the use of hunters.
The D.C.-based Humane Society roams our country using its vast millions looking for opportunities to promote its anti-hunting agenda. Now the group has landed in Maine with the November bear referendum; as a result, Maine could join the growing list of states struggling to prevent bear-human encounters.
According to a recent report in the Wall Street Journal, the American black bear population has continued to thrive in recent years, growing to 850,000. This is an astonishing fact given the populations of the world’s largest predators have declined. For example, the combinedworldwide populations of lions, polar bears, gray wolves and tigers is 224,000.
Let’s look at New Jersey. Since 1971, the state has prohibited bear hunting, except for limited hunts in 2003 and 2005. In 1997, the New Jersey Department of Fish and Wildlife recommended reducing the estimated bear population of 450-550 to 272-340. The recommendations of these professional biologists were ignored for years. Meanwhile, the population of bears and nuisance complaints continued to grow. Anti-hunting groups led by the Humane Society used the New Jersey courts three times, twice successfully, to delay a new bear hunt.
In 2010, the state’s bear population was more than 3,200 and nearly 3,200 complaints and sightings were reported. From 2006 to 2010, there were 201 successful home entries and 144 attempted entries by bears — including 68 successful entries in 2010 alone. Imagine waking in the morning to a noise in the kitchen and, when you investigate, coming face to face with a 400-pound black bear.
From 2001 to 2010, state officials spent $9 million on bear management and conflict resolution, while the Humane Society battled to protect bears. As the Humane Society blocked bear hunts in court, residents of New Jersey took the situation into their own hands. Bear poaching doubled from 2008 to 2010, and the number of bears found dead of unknown causes, possible victims of poisoning, increased by 400 percent between 2006 and 2010.
Finally, in an act of desperation and losing public support, the Humane Society and partner organizations proposed a draconian and expensive bear sterilization initiative that included tranquilizing male bears and injecting their testicles with heavy metals, destroying their ability to reproduce.
Finally, Gov. Chris Christie rejected a Humane Society anti-bear hunt petition and, after the courts rejected a lawsuit from the Humane Society, a limited bear hunt was instituted.
Florida also faces problems with its bear population. According to National Geographic, since Florida began tracking bear attacks in 1976,there have been 14 violent bear-human encounters, all of which occurred in the last eight years. Last year, the Florida bear complaint hotline logged an amazing 6,726 reports, the most ever. In comparison, Maine biologists have managed a growing population of 31,000 bears, while maintaining a relatively low average of 500 complaints a year.
In the last six months, there have been two life threatening maulings in the Orlando, Florida, region. As a result, 12 Florida lawmakers have had enough and are calling for a new bear hunt to control the bear population.
Some of the other states that have recently proposed or are expanding bear hunts to control bear related problems: New York, Nevada, Maryland, Kentucky, Vermont, North Carolina and Pennsylvania.
This November, Maine voters will face another referendum to ban Maine’s most effective tools used to manage bears — baiting, hounding and trapping — at a time when the black bear population across the nation is growing uncontrollably and the resulting chaos and property damage is causing states to institute and expand new bear hunts.
Other than an emotional response to an Humane Society agenda, why would Maine people throw away our wildly successful bear management program and make our communities more dangerous places to live?
David Trahan is executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine. (A version of this op-ed originally appeared in the Bangor Daily News.)