Commentary

Who Should Keep Our Black Bear Population in Check?

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This November we have an enormously important issue coming via Citizens Referendum regarding our ability to keep our black bear population in balance. It is being touted as a “Fair Chase” issue, but if Question 1 passes, the consequences have far wider implications.

The primary force behind this referendum is the Washington DC based, Humane Society of the United States or “HSUS”.  They are pouring millions of dollars into urban and suburban Maine trying to influence voters and attempt to financially overpower the citizens who live in the rural areas who interact with these huge predatory animals on a regular basis. On the opposite side of the issue are those with intimate knowledge of the black bears, wildlife biologists, game wardens, outfitters, guides, and hunters.

I am certain that as of this date you have heard all the facts and mistruths and have probably begun to wonder who is telling the truth. So I am going to point out a simple fact that no one is talking about, but one I find extremely important: regardless of the outcome of this referendum, the same methods of harvesting Black Bear that are used today will still be legal to use if the referendum passes.

That’s right: baiting, hounding and trapping will still be allowed and if the HSUS prevails in selling their false bill of goods, and you can add other methods like shooting them at night, and spotting them with thermal imaging devices as legal for controlling bears.

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How can this be possible you may ask?  I’ll explain. Right now the bear numbers are kept in check by millions of dollars and thousands of hours of hard work that hunters and guides pour into the State every year.  The money starts flowing at the border and never stops well after the hunting season, gas stations, grocery stores, cabin and room rentals, guide and outfitter fees, state licensing, taxidermy and much more.  The Black Bear has been elevated to a noble trophy animal over the last 50 years and considered fantastic table fare at the same time.  One study, ten years ago by respected University of Maine Professor Charlie Colgan estimated bear hunting generated 60 million in economic activity and 700 jobs statewide.

Families practice time honored bear hunting traditions, pay license fees to the state that in turn pay to sustainably manage bears.  If this referendum passes, everything above will be gone, all gone in a single vote.

If this referendum passes, These traditional methods of hounding, baiting and trapping will be made illegal for hunters, who will be left only with a chance meeting to harvest a bear. Not very good, or even realistic odds. Government approved hired guns however, will be using these same methods as problems arise. The number of bear hunters will dwindle, along with the number of bears that must be taken each year to keep a safe and healthy balance.  Bear hunting as we know it, will cease to exist.

No more money, hunters, guides, motel room rentals and; as a result, our biologists are predicting bear numbers will explode.  Unfortunately, there will no longer be a guiding and hunting community to pick up the costs.

Bears populations will expand into urban areas in search of more habitat, eventually as nuisance bears damage property, kill pets, livestock and injure or kill enough humans other methods will be necessary to destroy troublesome bears.

A new cottage industry of paid animal damage control agents will be born to do what was once done by hunters and guides, except, taxpayers and municipalities will pay for management with taxpayer money.  To date, the state of New Jersey has spent $9 million in ten years for these types of “hired gun” services and educating the public how to deal with nuisance bears.  New Jersey has 3,200 bears, Maine has 31,000, we can only guess at what level the population will reach carrying capacity, given the fact that most of southern Maine is sparsely populated with bears and the habitat in the south is prime for bears, we can only guess how many bears we will have, we should assume the sky is the limit and so is the cost!

That is the difference in a nut shell. We will lose out on long established traditions, the ability to keep the bear population in check and Maine will lose thousands of jobs that will be replaced by (paid) government sharpshooters and they will use the EXACT SAME methods employed by hunters today.

Does this seem like a good deal to you?

About Jeff Zimba

Jeff W. Zimba is the author of “The Evolution of the Black Rifle.” A Master Registered Maine Guide specializing in veterans’ outreach programs, Zimba is an award winning author with several hundred published articles and videos to his credit.

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