Coalition Calls on Department to Put an End to the Bear Baiting Season
Dumping Bait in the Woods Habituates Bears to Humans and Grows Their Population
PORTLAND, Maine, June 12, 2014 /PRNewswire/ — Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting is calling on the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to put an end to bear baiting – an unsporting practice where piles of rotting meat, pizza and stale pastries lure bears in for an easy trophy kill – to prevent future human and bear conflicts.
Daryl Dejoy, director of the Wildlife Alliance of Maine said: “Our state has been encouraging hunters to feed bears fatty junk food for more than 25 years, and we are now suffering the results of that bear feeding program with a continuously increasing bear population. We are seeing more and more bears who are losing their very natural fear of humans and following their noses to human food.”
Supplying bears with an unnatural diet of bait conditions them to associate humans with food. Nearly every state and federal wildlife agency, including the IF&W, sternly warns the public not to feed bears because it leads to conflicts with humans, but Maine carves out a special exception for those who want to kill bears. Maine IF&W reported 44 nuisance bear complaints this year already. Ten years ago, the average was about 400 nuisance bear complaints annually. That average has increased to 500 per year.
Katie Hansberry, campaign director for Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting said: “Fair chase hunters don’t want to trudge through woods that are filled with rotting garbage – other states have shown an increase in fair chase bear hunting once unsporting practices like baiting have been prohibited, and Maine will be no different. The Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is talking out of both sides of its mouth by acknowledging that feeding bears can lead to conflicts, while at the same time allowing baiters to dump millions of pounds of food into Maine’s pristine wilderness every year. Shutting down the baiting season is the first step to prevent future bear conflicts.”
Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting is a coalition of state and national groups, environmental and animal organizations, animal shelters and rescue groups, hunters, veterinarians, businesses, community and faith leaders and independent biologists.
-- Maine is one of just a handful of states that still allows the killing of bears over bait for recreation. This unsporting practice flies in the face of Maine's fair chase hunting heritage. -- With vast amounts of junk food readily available in their environment, bears increase in size, and mother bears have greater reproductive success and greater cub survival, which unnaturally increases bear populations - the very thing that state officials are trying to reverse. -- In 2004, when a similar measure to prohibit bear baiting, hounding and trapping was put before Maine voters, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife warned the public that if the measure passed, then the bear population would increase. However, the measure did not pass and the bear population has increased 30 percent in the last 10 years. -- Baiting changes bears' behaviors, habituates them to human food sources and reduces their natural fear of humans, which increases the likelihood of negative interactions with people. IF&W rightfully issues stern warnings to the public to keep food away from bears every year, in an attempt to reduce these bear-human conflicts. -- Bait piles concentrate animals, including raccoons and other species, in areas that become significant disease-transfer sites, which exacerbates the spread of infection between animals. Biologists are particularly concerned with the spread of rabies at baited zones. -- Voters in Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington approved similar ballot measures in past elections. -- After prohibiting bear baiting at the ballot, Colorado officials said:"[T]he passage of the 1992 initiative has had no detectable adverse effects on bear hunting or bear management in Colorado. It has shown clearly that a black bear population can be efficiently and effectively managed without recourse to bait, hounds, or spring season. Hunters have learned to effectively hunt and harvest bears without using these methods and the Colorado Division of Wildlife has seen a significant increase in revenue resulting from increased interest in bear hunting." -- Four years into Colorado's ban on baiting, Tom Beck, a hunter and a former bear biologist with the Colorado Division of Wildlife, wrote of baiting: "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."
Paid for with regulated funds by the committee of Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, PO Box 15367, Portland ME 04112
SOURCE Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting