March 28, 2023

Getting Bear Hunting and Trapping Facts Straight

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Last week in the Bethel Citizen, a small hometown newspaper, the online addition carried an opinion piece in the editorial section. It was titled, “Hunt Bear Traditionally.” I don’t feel at liberty to take a publication without permission so please follow the link to read the opinion piece.

I took a few minutes of my time on Monday to compose a rebuttal to that piece. I have published it below.

Response on bear hunting
Nov 21, 2013 12:00 am

To the Editor:

In reply to the opinion piece of Sara Wright, Nov. 14, 2013, “Hunt Bear Traditionally,” there are some serious errors to claims made about black bear hunting and trapping in Maine and elsewhere that need to be addressed.

The voters of Maine are the ones who will cast the deciding ballot on this issue and it is imperative that they have truthful information in order to form their opinions.

The writer claims the use of “steel traps” and that bears sometimes “gnaw off their paws.” From the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife rulebook about bear trapping it states that: “The only trap you are allowed to use when trapping for bear is a cable trap (foot snare), and cage type live trap.”

The use of the long-fabled iron-claw trap has been outlawed for several years. A snare only restrains the bear and can be released relatively easily with no injury to the animal.

It is easy to toss out statistics, cherry picking what fits a narrative. It is much more difficult to make a telephone call and get clarification on issues. The writer makes claims about Oregon, Washington and Colorado pertaining to bear hunting and trapping. The claims made are a bit dishonest, a fete hoped for by the misleading environmentalists looking to interfere with the wildlife management of the Pine Tree State.

Cathy DeMerchant, a member of the Board of Directors for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and immediate past chairwoman of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Advisory Council, did her homework and got the facts straight. DeMerchant says that Joel Hurtado, wildlife biologist in charge of Oregon’s Big Game Statistics division, explains what misleading figures being used by the animal rights organizations really state. He says that what appear to be increases in the number of bear tags sold, along with licenses, is the result of the state combining a bear hunting license with a big game license. Where once a separate license was required, it is now combined with a standard big game license. It therefore appears to be an increase in bear licenses but in fact it is not.

In addition, Hurtado states that bear nuisance complaints in Oregon increased 65 percent since passage of the hunting/trapping ban and in Colorado “nuisance bear complaints went through the roof.”

Here are a few more Maine bear statistics readily available to anyone wishing to actually find them:

1. Bear hunting success rate, utilizing the current methods, stands at 30 percent.

2. Bear hunting success by the proposed “traditional” spot and stalk method, yielded a harvest of 60 bears in 2012. MDIFW claims at current population numbers (30,000) a harvest of 3,000 bears is needed to keep numbers at current levels.

3. Bear population has increased in Maine 67 percent since 1990.

4. In 2012 nuisance bear complaints jumped from an average of 500 per year to 870.

(By the way, MDIW has perhaps the finest black bear management and study program in the U.S. It is the envy of most other fish and game departments.)

It is difficult to attempt to legislate hunting ethics/sportsmanship. For the most part fish and game departments establish their rules for hunting and trapping based on need for population control, public safety and social demands. Using an argument that attempts to define what is ethical and/or sportsmanlike when it comes to hunting, trapping and fishing is impossible to do and should never be included as part of any argument to ban hunting or trapping.

Maine’s wildlife managers need tools at their disposal in order to carry out their legislatively mandated jobs of managing wildlife for all. Please don’t hamstring the fish and game department preventing them from doing their jobs.

Whether signing a petition or voting next November on this issue, please get all the facts and more importantly, the truthful facts and then make your decision.

Tom Remington
Largo, Fla. and Bethel