July 22, 2019

Disrupted Economics From a Spring Bear Hunt? I Have My Doubts

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Bob Humphrey writes in his column that if Maine offered a Spring bear hunt – something suggested in order to find ways of reducing the bear population – it “…could have an effect on the fall hunt.” He further explains that “…fall bear hunting supports a substantial industry of guides, outfitters, lodges and ancillary service providers in more remote areas of the state. With deer numbers, and demand for deer hunting services at historical lows, guided bear hunts take on added importance to local economies.”

While it is important to understand the economics associated with all hunting, fishing, and recreational activities, we shouldn’t allow this to upend the scientific and public safety reasons that should be associated with bear management. I often lament over the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s (MDIFW) decision to allow social demands to drive their management decisions. Allowing the demands of guides and outfitters to direct management decisions is no different.

In addition, I’m not so sure that offering a Spring bear hunt would be so potentially devastating to the bear guiding and outfitter businesses as well as lodges and “ancillary service providers.” Are these businesses so inflexible and mired in the way they’ve always done things that adjustments can’t be made – perhaps even adjustments to pad the bank accounts a bit more?

It reminds me of people I know whose business was struggling. They voiced concern that they didn’t know what they were going to do to stay in business. When I asked questions about what things they had tried to improve business and offered some suggestions, their comment was, “we’ve never done that before.” End of discussion.

The end result in all of this is that MDIFW continues to express their wish to increase bear harvest in order to better stabilize the bear population. They boast of how long the season is and the different opportunities bear hunters have, while at the same time telling us the low success rate of taking a bear and how that rate fluctuates depending on demographics of the existing season, i.e. food availability, etc.

Perhaps an attempt at offering bonus tags or simply a two-bear bag limit that does not include taking one by trapping. It may sound generous to offer a two-bear limit, one by hunting and one by trapping, but bear trapping is, at least has been so far, a negligible part of the bear harvest with little hope of increased interest.

Is it more cost effective to increase the bag limit during the existing bear season or to have a second complete bear hunting season? Don’t bear hunters want to tag two bears? Time to hunt is limited for most. If during that time a hunter has the chance to take two bears…why not?

It just seems that although concerns are being expressed about how to further reduce and stabilize the bear population, little is being done to accomplish that – just cheap talk. Maybe it’s because there is so much focus on babysitting the guide and outfitting businesses responsible decisions aren’t being made that are in the best interest of bear management.

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