With nearly 90% of the vote in, Question 2, which proposed to ban three methods of bear hunting, went down to defeat early yesterday morning.
"The citizens of Maine have spoken and this is affirmation that they believe our biologists are managing and protecting their wildlife well," said Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Commissioner Roland "Dan" Martin.
The "No" vote marked the end of a long battle that saw proponents of the measure jump to an early lead in public opinion polls, as high as 80% in some polls, then saw it slip as the Department and its supporters started providing scientific information garnered from over 30 years of bear research in Maine to voters.
"In the end, people believed our methods of bear management were working for Maine, and they voted to continue these practices," said Commissioner Martin.
The department opposed the referendum from the beginning, stating that these methods of hunting were essential tools of their black bear population management program, and to lose them would mean that the department would lose its ability to control Maine's bear population.
"I am very please that the voters of Maine listened to the scientific facts provided by our biologists. We have a nationally recognized team of biologists, and it is heartening to know that voters heard what they said," said Martin.
The scientific facts, combined with the economic impact of bear hunting in the state, was a powerful message. An Economic Impact Study conducted by former state economist Charles Colgan detailed that bear hunting in Maine had a yearly economic impact of over $60 million to the state, and provided over 600 jobs.
That message still had to overcome an emotional television advertising campaign that was primarily funded by two national animal rights groups. PA reports filed with the state of Maine, showed that 95% of the financial support behind Question 2 came from two national anti-hunting groups. Supporters of the referendum spent over $1 million dollars primarily in television advertising.
Support to defeat the referendum came from over 15,000 people and 700 businesses and organizations that joined together to defeat the referendum. Maine's Fish and Wildlife Conservation Council raised over $1 million, with 64% of the money raised coming from within the state.
"The Conservation Council did an outstanding job of pulling together the outdoors community and supporting businesses to defeat the referendum. We had the information, but this group did an fantastic job getting the message out," said Martin.