Skip to main content

Maine Bear Hunting in the Hands of Voters

bear-1The future of Maine bear hunting lays in the hands of state voters. A ballot initiative known as Question 1 would ban the use of traps, bait and hounds, leaving still-hunting as the only legal method. The measure is on the state ballot Nov. 4, 2014. The referendum is funded almost entirely by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the country's largest and most powerful anti-hunting organization. 

If Question 1 passes, it would not only take away the state wildlife agency's most effective black bear management tools, it would cripple Maine's outfitter industry. Bear guides rely on baiting and hounds, says Sportsman's Alliance of Maine executive director David Trahan.

"Many, many outfitters will go out of business. That's the untold story here. These are hard-working men and women who have been outfitters all their lives. It's all they know," he says. "It's not like they would be able to get another job. Most of these outfitters live in rural communities with a very limited job market, so they would likely go bankrupt."

Trahan says studies have shown that bear hunting contributes $60 million to the state economy and accounts for upward of 800 jobs.


The loss of bait and hounds as hunting methods won't just devastate small towns and the outfitters who support them. It would cripple the state's ability to effectively manage bears. Baiting, trapping and hounds together account for 93 percent of the annual statewide harvest of about 3,000 bears.


RELATED: What's the Best Bear Hunting Method?

A ban on those methods would result in an upswing in the state's bear population, which stands at 30,000 animals, and bear/human conflicts will surely increase as they have in other states with growing black bear populations. Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (DIFW) biologist Gerry Levigne cited examples of the effect of bait and hound bans in other states in a report he wrote for the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine. Hundreds of nuisance bears are now killed by state wildlife agencies instead of by sport hunters. Oregon officials kill 400 each year, and about 600 were killed in Colorado in 2012. One Colorado county went so far as to ban the use of levered door handles because bears have become adept at entering homes fitted with those types of handles. Massachusetts' bear population increased by 700 percent since the bait ban went into effect in 1970. Hunting with hounds was outlawed in 1996. Complaints have more than doubled in Massachusetts as bears encroach on the state's suburban regions.

"If we lose these methods, DIFW loses the ability to control the size and health of Maine's black bear population," wrote Levigne. "A growing bear population that routinely exceeds its wild food supply is a recipe for escalating bear/human conflicts."

RELATED: Coyote Attacks Chicago Boy in City Park




Bears can self-regulate their populations, but what anti-hunting groups don't seem to grasp is that "natural" population control typically involves methods more cruel than any type of hunting. Adult males kill cubs more frequently when populations are at or over carrying capacity, and young males will fight over territory as more bears are squeezed into the landscape, often inflicting fatal wounds on each other.

"As a population grows," wrote Levigne in his report, "competition becomes fierce for the high-quality foods," which results in malnutrition, particularly for younger and smaller animals.

Contrary to claims by Question 1 proponents, the three methods under attack are in no way giving hunters an unfair advantage. The state's 12,000 bear hunters have a 25 percent success rate and spend an average of 15 days afield before they kill a bear. Trappers have an even lower success rate, and success rates for still-hunters are the lowest of all methods.


This isn't the first time the HSUS has attempted to subvert professional wildlife management in Maine. A similar ballot initiative was defeated in 2004 by just a four-point margin. Anti-hunters gathered about 97,000 signatures, far more than the required number to place the referendum before Maine's voters.

Despite that narrow loss, the anti-hunting group has claimed a number of victories related to bear management. Colorado, for example, banned baiting, hounds and a spring hunting season in 1992. The referendum passed by a landslide 70-to-30 margin. Voters in Oregon and Washington also passed ballot initiatives that restricted bear hunting methods, but Michigan, Idaho and Alaska voters rejected similar referendums between 1996 and 2004.

Win or lose, it's all part of the organization's ultimate goal to end all hunting.

HSUS Executive Director Wayne Pacelle said in a 1991 interview with the Associated Press, "If we could shut down all sport hunting in a moment, we would." That may seem like a far-fetched goal, but between 1990 and 2012, the animal rights group backed 45 state ballot measures that related to everything from farming and dog racing to trapping and wolf hunting. They were victorious on 30, including a ban on mountain lion hunting in California, trapping in Arizona and a continued ban on dove hunting in Ohio.

Trahan thinks Maine voters understand what's at stake. A poll conducted in September found that two-thirds of state voters who understood the issue would reject Question 1. To boost the public education campaign, the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine raised $2 million dollars, much of it spent on television, radio and newspaper advertising. Equally important, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has been active in its opposition to Question 1.

"Our state wildlife biologists and wardens have been out front on this issue and what it would mean to the state if it did pass," says Trahan.

Surprisingly, though, the referendum also has wide-ranging support from a variety of in-state businesses, wildlife experts and community leaders. To view a full list, visit fairbearhunt.com.

While Trahan and other bear-hunting supporters are concerned about the outcome, they that agree public sentiment seems to be on their side. That's due in part to a fatal bear attack in New Jersey in September. A Rutgers University student was killed by a black bear while hiking in the Apshawa Preserve with four friends.

"I think that was a game-changer," says Trahan. "It brought a bit of reality to the issue. If we can't successfully manage our bears through the current methods, we could see this sort of thing happen in Maine. No one wants that."

G&A WANTS TO KNOW: Where do you stand on this issue? Vote and join the debate below.

Current Magazine Cover

Enjoy articles like this?

Subscribe to the magazine.

Get access to everything Guns & Ammo has to offer.
Subscribe to the Magazine

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Recommended Articles

See More Recommendations

Popular Videos

Trijicon RMRcc Reflex Sight – Perfect for Optics-Ready Concealed-Carry Pistols

Trijicon RMRcc Reflex Sight – Perfect for Optics-Ready Concealed-Carry Pistols

The people asked and Trijicon answered. Introducing the RMRcc miniature red-dot sight for compact, concealed-carry pistols. Trijicon's new RMRcc features the durability and reliable controls that have made the RMR so successful, but its reduced dimensions make the “Concealed Carry” model better suited for the popular small-frame pistols designed for discreet carry and personal defense.

Benelli Lupo Bolt-Action Rifle Review

Benelli Lupo Bolt-Action Rifle Review

It is unlike any other rifle on the market because it offers features no one else does; those looking for a rifle that fits like a custom-made firearm should look no further than the Benelli Lupo.

Surefire XSC Micro-Compact Pistol Light: First Look

Surefire XSC Micro-Compact Pistol Light: First Look

Small, lightweight and purpose-built for sub-compact carry guns, Surefire's XSC pistol light takes on EDC illumination segment.

Cameras Don

Cameras Don't Lie: Subsonic 9mm vs. .300 Blackout

In this segment of "Cameras Don't Lie," a subsonic-ammo showdown, 9mm vs. .300 Blackout fired from AR rifles.

See More Popular Videos

Trending Articles

The Pulsar Thermion XG50 Thermal Riflescope is the first-ever riflescope to combine a BAE sensor, onboard recording, automatic & manual calibration options, multiple color palettes, and manual focus.Pulsar Thermion XG50 Thermal Riflescope - First Look Optics

Pulsar Thermion XG50 Thermal Riflescope - First Look

Guns & Ammo Staff - September 02, 2020

The Pulsar Thermion XG50 Thermal Riflescope is the first-ever riflescope to combine a BAE...

Under federal law, a license is not required to make a firearm for your personal use.Ghost Guns: Why Antis Want Them Banned 2nd Amendment

Ghost Guns: Why Antis Want Them Banned

Keith Wood - December 10, 2020

Under federal law, a license is not required to make a firearm for your personal use.

The Taurus TX22 rimfire shoots like no other.Taurus TX22 Rimfire Review Reviews

Taurus TX22 Rimfire Review

Eric Poole - May 23, 2019

The Taurus TX22 rimfire shoots like no other.

Don't underestimate the fun factor.Review: Remington V3 TAC-13 Shotguns

Review: Remington V3 TAC-13

Brad Fitzpatrick - March 08, 2019

Don't underestimate the fun factor.

See More Trending Articles

More Industry

Fiocchi announced plans for a significant investment in a new, independent manufacturing facility in Little Rock, Arkansas. This plan is part of an ongoing strategic initiative by Fiocchi of America and the Italy-based Fiocchi Group to expand its U.S. and international operations.Fiocchi Announces Industrial Expansion in Arkansas Industry

Fiocchi Announces Industrial Expansion in Arkansas

Guns & Ammo Staff - July 31, 2020

Fiocchi announced plans for a significant investment in a new, independent manufacturing...

Smith & Wesson announced the launch of its new multi-media marketing campaign: Smith & Wesson Gunsmarts.Smith & Wesson Gunsmarts Campaign Industry

Smith & Wesson Gunsmarts Campaign

Guns & Ammo Staff - August 18, 2020

Smith & Wesson announced the launch of its new multi-media marketing campaign: Smith & Wesson...

True Velocity finalized delivery of more than 625,000 rounds of the company's proprietary composite-cased 6.8mm ammunition to the U.S. Army for consideration in the Next Generation Squad Weapon Program (NGSW).True Velocity Delivers More Than 625K Rounds of Composite-Cased Ammo to U.S. Army Industry

True Velocity Delivers More Than 625K Rounds of Composite-Cased Ammo to U.S. Army

Guns & Ammo Staff - January 07, 2021

True Velocity finalized delivery of more than 625,000 rounds of the company's proprietary...

Former Guns & Ammo Editor Richard Erik Venola passed away on February 6, 2021, in Nye County, Nevada. He was 62. The shooting world — his world — is much the poorer for it.Richard Venola: September 18, 1958 - February 6, 2021 Industry

Richard Venola: September 18, 1958 - February 6, 2021

Payton Miller and Eric R. Poole - February 16, 2021

Former Guns & Ammo Editor Richard Erik Venola passed away on February 6, 2021, in Nye County,...

See More Industry

Magazine Cover

GET THE MAGAZINE Subscribe & Save

Digital Now Included!

SUBSCRIBE NOW

Give a Gift   |   Subscriber Services

PREVIEW THIS MONTH'S ISSUE Arrow

Buy Digital Single Issues

Don't miss an issue.
Buy single digital issue for your phone or tablet.

Buy Single Digital Issue on the Guns & Ammo App

Other Magazines

See All Other Magazines

Special Interest Magazines

See All Special Interest Magazines

GET THE NEWSLETTER Join the List and Never Miss a Thing.

Phone Icon

Get Digital Access.

All Guns and Ammo subscribers now have digital access to their magazine content. This means you have the option to read your magazine on most popular phones and tablets.

To get started, click the link below to visit mymagnow.com and learn how to access your digital magazine.

Get Digital Access

Not a Subscriber?
Subscribe Now