Animal advocacy groups have joined forces to ban three brutal bear hunting practices still allowed in Maine, which are about to get underway this season starting on August 26.
Despite having some of the toughest animal protection laws in the country, Maine is one of few states that still allows bear baiting and hounding and is the only state left that still allows bear trapping for sport. Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, a coalition of animal advocacy organizations, is taking up the fight to stop these cruel practices and will be working to gather more than 80,000 signatures by February to bring the the issue to voters in 2014.
The coalition is arguing that these practices are unsporting, inhumane and unnecessary. Bears caught in traps can suffer from severe injuries trying to escape, while some have reportedly tried to chew their paws off to free themselves. Hunters who use hounds can let loose up to six dogs fitted with GPS collars to track and chase a bear, who will either climb a tree or confront the dogs who can be mauled and killed.
As for baiting, not only does it defy the fair chase principle of hunting, but luring bears with food (when we’re consistently warned not to otherwise feed them or leave food or trash out because doing so could potentially encourage their presence and create conflicts) isn’t just hypocritical, it’s completely irresponsible. According to the coalition, almost 80 percent of all bears in Maine are killed this way.
“I firmly believe that baiting creates ‘nuisance’ bears…Black bears are naturally wary, instinctively avoiding close contact with humans. But large amounts of tasty food, easily obtained defeats this wariness. By baiting, we create lazy bears who have been rewarded, not punished, for overcoming their fear of humans,” said Tom Beck, a hunter and a former bear biologist with the Colorado Division of Wildlife.
The coalition has also asked more than 130 food suppliers to stop giving hunters leftovers to bait bears with as part of its End Bear Baiting Month campaign.
“Most Mainers would be shocked to learn that businesses they patronize are giving handouts to bear baiters. There’s no sport in killing a bear whose face is buried in rotting jelly donuts and we are confident that voters will put an end to this biologically reckless practice on the 2014 ballot. In the interim, we hope that Maine businesses will cease to participate in such an abhorrent practice,” said Katie Hansberry, the coalition’s campaign director, in a press release.
Some opposed to ending these practices argue that hunters will stop hunting and the bear population will spiral out of control, but other states, including Colorado, Washington and Oregon, which all banned baiting and hounding decades ago have not had any problems with bears or population management.
A ban on these practices lost at the ballot back in 2004 by a small margin. Hopefully there has been a change in attitudes since then, and that this time around voters will stand up to protect bears from these cruel practices for recreational purposes. Meanwhile, the coalition is currently working on language for the ballot measure and expects to start collecting signatures in September.
For more info about this initiative, visit Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting.
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