IFW Opposes Bear Referendum

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The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife vigorously opposes the referendum to ban Maine's traditional bear hunting methods of baiting, hunting with dogs, and by trapping.

The proposed ban would compromise the department's ability to effectively manage the bear population and achieve publicly designed bear population management goals which include keeping the bear population at the current level, and provide traditional hunting, trapping, and viewing opportunities. Here are some facts about bears in Maine:

Black Bears Are Thriving In Maine

Bears are distributed throughout the state, with a population of about 23,000, which has increased by 28% since 1990. Maine has the largest bear population east of the Rockies, and one of the largest in the continental U.S. The department received over 300 nuisance complaints concerning bears last year alone. The population has remained steady over the past four years through the annual harvest of 3,500 to 4,000 bears by the traditional hunting methods of baiting, hunting with dogs, and trapping.

Bears Are Hunted In A Traditional Manner, Like Other Game In Maine, By Methods Approved And Used By The Scientific And Hunting Communities Alike

Dogs are a traditional hunting tool, dating back to colonial times in Maine. Currently dogs are used for bird hunting, for waterfowl hunting, for bobcat hunting and even for tracking wounded deer. Trapping is a Maine tradition, and not only are there trapping seasons on bear, but also for fox, bobcat, coyote, raccoon, beaver, fisher, and other fur bearing mammals. These animals are lured to the trap with the use of bait or scents. Bait, natural food or scent lures, designed to give hunters an edge and entice game to an area where a quick, clean kill can be achieved, are used in hunts for deer, waterfowl, geese, and coyotes among others. Moreover, Bait, Dogs, and Traps are tools used by this department and other wildlife agencies to capture animals for research, for they are widely accepted tools in the scientific community and are seen as the most humane and quickest ways to capture bears.

Maine Has One Of The Longest, Most Extensive And Comprehensive Bear Studies In The Nation

Since it began in 1975, more than 2,000 bears have been captured and tracked. Each year, between 40 and 78 bears are tracked, and 40-50 bear dens are visited each winter, where IFW biologists collect detailed information on survival, cub birth rates, behavior and health. This data has proved that putting bait in a bear's habitat does not increase the reproductive rate of bears, that baiting does not increase the number of nuisance bears, and it does not negatively impact the environment. The scientific information collected also allows the department to adjust the bear harvest through rule changes in the bear hunting seasons.

Maine Citizens Designed Bear Population Objectives For Maine's Black Bears

In 1999, multiple public meetings that included landowners, the forest industry, sportsmen, environmentalists, and area chambers of commerce developed population objectives for 2000 through 2015, and they included stabilizing the bear population at the present level, promoting traditional hunting and trapping methods, and promoting the public tolerance of bears in Maine.

Hunting Is The Primary Tool To Achieve The Public's Goals

To achieve publicly designed bear population objectives, we need to harvest about 3,500-4,000 bears annually. From 1999-2002, Maine's bear harvest has averaged 3,712. Since 1999, 78% of the bear kill came by using bait, 10% by using hounds, 2% by trapping and 10% incidental to the deer season. Our survey data shows us that about 25% of bear hunters are successful each year. By contrast, in 2003, moose hunters averaged an 80% success rate, turkey hunters were successful 36%, and in 2002, 22% of the deer hunters were successful.