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?

24 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you Jeff for you take on this! I am honored to consider you a friend and know your passion for continuing to follow the guidance of our biologists!

    We need no new Cottage Industries in Maine! We just need to allow the long honored and respected Men and Women who have dedicated their lives to guiding (in state and out of state people) within the confines of our state, to be able to continue to enjoy hunting traditions which have been used for years.

    Animal Control officers in our state are not prepared to control or deal with the issues which will come before them should Referendum Question #1 pass! I urge all to Vote NO on #1!

  2. absolutely this is what happened in California.. Hunting of mountain lions was stopped .. now only the “specialist”s can hunt them .. anyway they want to.. now using hounds to hunt bear and bobcat is outlawed.. so who can hunt bears anyway they want to?/ yes just the “specialists” don’t let this happen in Maine. The HSUS rules our state as they pay off politicians, spread lies and misinformation and stop our hunting traditions. say NO THE THE HSUS

  3. If it isn’t broke don’t fix it, our government always think’s they know best and many times they DON’T.The money spent on this could be used for something more important like protecting our borders and taking care of our own TRUE Citizens of the USA.Leave well enough alone and remember,November is right around the corner you DC know it all’s and you may be looking for a new job yourselves.

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  5. The other side states that 37,000 lbs of garbage is used annually for bear bait, and that this is expanding & supporting the bear population. IF this is true, it is way too much bait and begs regulation of the practice. IF this is true, then the hunting industry has not self-regulated and so requires regulation from outside the industry.

    Traps that do not rapidly kill, or at least notify the trapper when tripped, so that the trapper can & should rapidly dispatch the trapped bear, are cruel and cause and prolonged excruciating death. This is not sport and thus begs regulation.

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  7. Paul, the other side claims it it is 7 million pounds not 37 thousand. doing the math based on 5 gallon buckets, because that’s what baiters use to haul the bait to the sites, you get an end number if 140,000 bait sites. that is a lot of sites! idk about anyone else I can personally count two people that I know who actively bait bear every year and those are Maine Guides. Also I believe there is a limited number of bait sites allowed per person. I don’t have the law book handy but I will check. And per your statement concerning trapping bears… the only type of trap allowed in Maine for trapping bears is a leg hold style trap and by state law these types of traps must be checked every 24 hours, minimum! I don’t know what level of knowledge you have on the art of trapping animals but it is a voracious eater of time. Anyone who does it on the level of trapping bears is in it for the long haul and it would make no sense for the to leave the animal trapped, for long periods of time.

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