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July 09, 2013

The Maine Event for Bears

Last year members of The HSUS and other animal welfare and environmental organizations convinced state lawmakers in California to pass legislation to ban hound hunting of bears. It’s been a major issue in Maine as well, and this year, our allies in the Maine legislature introduced a bill to ban bear hounding as well as the barbaric practice of bear trapping. But the legislature’s Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee didn’t waste any time in tabling the bill, answering the demands of the Sportsmen’s Alliance of Maine.

Now, The HSUS and the Wildlife Alliance of Maine are members of a new coalition in the state – consisting of animal advocates, hunters, environmentalists and others, joined together under the banner of Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting – announcing the launch today of a statewide ballot initiative to ban the inhumane and unsporting practices of bear hounding, baiting, and trapping.

Black bear in tree
iStockphoto

In 2004, Maine voters very narrowly turned back a similar initiative. There was some thought among voters that the bear hunting community, after barely escaping defeat in that election cycle, would curb at least some cruel bear hunting practices. But there have been no meaningful reforms in the last 10 years, and that’s exactly why this initiative is being launched.

Snare traps are at the top of the list. Maine is the only state that allows the use of bear traps –painful snares that put bears who trigger them into an ever-tightening grip. After as many as 24 hours of struggling in one of these traps, the bear meets his end after the trapper shoots the frightened, anguished, suffering animal at point-blank range.

The dominant hunting method in Maine is baiting – which is the method used to shoot 80 percent of the 3,000 to 4,000 bears that hunters shoot for trophies. Bear baiters set up dump sites in the woods for bears – dumping meat parts, donuts, grease and other food waste – and then shoot the animals while they feed. All professional wildlife managers discourage people from feeding bears, but Maine makes an exception for thousands of hunters who dump tons of human foods into the woods and habituate bears to human food sources. If you want to avoid creating nuisance bears, the first step is to forbid trophy hunters from turning the Maine woods into a dump site – a wasteland of half eaten pastries from Dunkin' Donuts and chewed up crusts from Domino’s.

Finally, some hunters may unleash packs of dogs to chase bears through the woods. Fitted with GPS-collars, the dogs do all the work as they chase the bears to exhaustion – sometimes for miles. When the bear finally manages to escape up a tree in terror, the houndsman simply follows the GPS signal to the tree – then points, aims and shoots the bear out of the tree. It’s about as sporting as shooting an animal in a cage at a zoo.

What’s even worse is when the bear doesn’t make it up the tree in time and instead turns and faces the dogs, it often leads to a fight between the two species. The dogs can maul the bear and vice versa, leading to serious injury and even death on both sides.

Sometimes the hunters mix and match these despicable methods. They may bait bears into the traps, or they may bait them and then release hounds to chase them.

In short, despite its great habitat and northern woods, Maine is the worst state to be a bear. A decade ago, the trophy hunting lobby fed voters a load of political garbage when this issue was on the ballot, falsely suggesting that these unfair, inhumane hunting and trapping methods were part of a wildlife management program. They are as much a part of a legitimate hunting program as deadfall traps or jacklighting or running animals over with vehicles.

It’s unbelievable that Maine still allows these practices, especially when some of the biggest bear hunting states in the country like Montana, Pennsylvania and Washington manage their bears without resorting to baiting, hounding or trapping. It’s time to end this cruelty in Maine and Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting needs your help. If you are a Maine resident, we need you to help us gather the 80,000 signatures required to qualify for the November 2014 ballot. Please go to www.fairbearhunt.com to join this critical campaign.

Paid for and authorized by Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting

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