May 23, 2013
Maine has a lot of forest. Maine has a lot of bears. Too many bears presents too many problems, like killing too many deer and moose fawns in the Spring and bears banging down people’s back doors and yards looking for something to eat, either because of too many bears or not enough to eat or both.
But Maine is, once again, being threatened by a citizens’ referendum against bear hunting and trapping. The Humane Society of the United States, unsuccessfully tried passing legislation in the Pine Tree State, to severely limit bear hunting and to end trapping and hunting bears with dogs. They threatened that if they lost the fight to get the legislation passed, they would come back next year with a referendum and that would include a proposal to end baiting bear for hunting purposes.
Should such a referendum pass, it would, for all intent and purposes, end hunting and trapping of bears and remove the most essential management tool the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has to control bear populations. If that should happen, well, then Maine can expect some of what I have below for links about bears encountering people. More bears mean more encounters with people, which means……not so good.
In Wisconsin, a man is attacked by a bear and his wife, noticing the attack, grabbed the shotgun. She didn’t know how to load it so she commenced to beat the bear with it.
The above story takes place at a cabin in the woods of Wisconsin. The next story takes place in the suburbs of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
At Incline Village in Nevada, a 325-pound bear enters a condominium on Lake Tahoe and ultimately gets killed because of the threat posed to humans.
And of course the bear/predator lovers and protectors, who live in a different world than the rest of us, will cry that it’s the human’s fault and tell everyone we must learn to live with large predators – meaning we are to become prisoners in our houses.
People should do as much as they reasonably can to reduce the chances of having an encounter with bears. This is no guarantee that it still will not happen. Bears generally mind to themselves but circumstances dictate their behavior. When bears get hungry, whether because of a lack of natural food and/or too much competition, meaning too many bears or other animals competing for the same food source, they go ANYWHERE they can find food. Anywhere!
May 22, 2013
It is a rare occasion when outdoor writer and political activist, George Smith, doesn’t write about the woes of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) lamenting the need to get general tax money to fund the department. My argument has always been that first we need to audit the department and more wisely spend the money that exists, move programs and activities out of fish and game and put them into conservation, agriculture or law enforcement and/or where more appropriate and then see if more money is needed.
Smith’s latest rant, of which he, a bit tongue in cheek, says that the Maine Warden Service, State Police and county Sheriffs won’t like his article, because he doesn’t think they are doing the jobs they are being paid for. And, I think he is right.
When a warden service, paid for with mostly fees collected from licensing of outdoor sports activities, issues more citations for possession of marijuana than trespassing or possessing too many fish, one has to wonder just what is going on. According to Smith, 60% of the entire MDIFW budget goes to the Warden Service and this money is being used to investigate traffic accidents, crime scene investigation, school security, etc.
Instead of crying that MDIFW and the Warden Service need more money to function, Smith suggests fine tuning the department and stop spending outdoor sportsman’s dollars on law enforcement that causes fish and game to suffer.
He has my vote.
May 21, 2013
The Maine Warden Service (MWS) once again has attempted to define, redefine, examine, reexamine, improve, shorten, make better or choose any other description, but MWS says they have a solution in defining the law about driving deer. Finally, no more questions!
First, to clarify what “driving” deer is, it is an organized effort to force deer into a specific place where a shooter lies in ambush (my definition).
So, Maine now says, “A person may not participate in a hunt for deer during which an organized or planned effort is made to drive deer. For the purposes of this section to be considered ‘driving deer’ it would require four or more hunters, working together in an effort to move deer.”
At least we now know that if there are less than 4 hunters, you can drive deer……..orrrrr, or can you?
Stu Bristol, a former game officer in Vermont and freelance writer, wrote a while ago about the need for the MWS to “reexamine” the laws pertaining to deer driving.
I’m not a lawyer nor am I a law enforcement officer anymore but my previous years in law enforcement causes me to question how anyone could be charged with this violation, given that so much is written into the law demanding proof of intent. How does the Maine Warden Service determine that a person sitting on a deer stand could possibly know when other unknown hunters were moving through the woods in an organized attempt to drive deer?
If the driving deer law, prior to the MWS’s new wording was:
Driving deer or taking part in a deer drive is unlawful, except that 3 or fewer persons may hunt together, without the aid of noisemaking devices. Driving deer is an organized or planned effort to pursue, drive, chase or otherwise frighten or cause deer to move in the direction of any person(s) who are part of the organized or planned hunt and known to be waiting for the deer.
then I doubt that much has changed to get rid of the demand to prove intent.
Is an officer really going to be able to prove the intent that a hunt was an “organized or planned effort?” And what happens to the guy innocently (no seriously) sitting in his deer stand and 4 or more guys enter the woods a few hundred yards away and “drive” a deer or a few by his deer stand?
So with the new wording, can I hunt with two other people and use “noisemakers?”
May 21, 2013
According to George Smith, three members of the board of directors for the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM) have resigned; two of them being long time members. As a matter of fact, Smith says Jim Gorman quit because, “Gorman cited SAM’s transition “in a new direction” for his resignation.” A new direction? One can only hope it’s the right direction.
I have heard from a very reliable source that at one time, say around the time that the Maine Moose Lottery was challenged by referendum around about 1982ish, SAM’s membership stood at around 18,000. Presently, I’ve heard the number 9,000 bantered around as being the current membership at SAM. I’ll spare readers the details as to how members are counted.
Evidently it was not until the recent emotional debates on anti rights and anti gun legislation proposals, membership at SAM was headed for the cellar or was already there. SAM’s new executive director, David Trahan, says that since he took over at the helm in early 2012, he’s jacked up membership by 1,700; guessing most of that due to anti gun hype.
It will be difficult to tell in the short term whether SAM’s claim “new direction” by former board member Jim Gorman, will generate new interest and bring back members. Maine, like many other states, are still dealing with the rhetoric and emotions of gun rights and in addition to that it appears that the Humane Society of the United States is prepared to spend $3-4 million on an anti hunting, anti bear hunting/trapping referendum again in 2014. This will, more than likely, spike SAM’s membership.
So, what is this “new direction” that former board member Jim Gorman doesn’t like? I can only guess.
I am not a member of SAM. I never have been and probably never will be. However, I spend a great deal of time following the actions of SAM and listening to those voicing opinions about the organization and how SAM relates to issues involving fisheries management, deer and moose management and game species management, along with gun rights and other outdoor interests.
It was no secret that at least during the latter stages of George Smith’s tenure as executive director for SAM, membership was declining and it appeared the level of discontent was on the rise. But why?
From my perspective it surely appeared that Smith and his board of directors were selling out to the environmentalist groups, I suppose somehow believing that even though historically these groups spend millions of dollars nationwide to put a stop to fishing, hunting, trapping and other “consumptive” outdoor sports, they would treat activities in Maine differently and be the sportsman’s friend.
The bottom line has always been the driving force behind many decisions and actions taken by human beings. Outdoor sportsmen have for several years seen their hunting, trapping and fishing opportunities seriously diminished. Most sportsmen blame poor management on the part of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW), for the loss of those opportunities. If SAM appears to be in full support of the efforts of MDIFW and we continue to get the same results, members become disgruntled and want a different approach. Is this the change in direction being spoken of here? Perhaps, or at least a part of it.
Another example of what might be a direction change that Gorman and others aren’t liking, showed itself during the recent debate on guns, gun rights and anti rights legislation bombarding the Maine Legislature. For the most part, David Trahan, SAM ED, took a very staunch stand in protecting the Second Amendment rights of all Maine citizens. While this was happening, former executive director at SAM, George Smith, was, for the most part, being wishy-washy, suggesting compromise. For the record Smith spoke out and presented legislation to get rid of Maine’s requirement for a permit to carry concealed. I applaud that move. Overall, Smith’s attitude and approach isn’t what the majority of Maine’s sportsmen want. Is that the change of direction being talked about?
Recently the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) sponsored legislation to ban bear trapping, as well as hunting bears in the Spring and with hounds. HSUS threatened that if Maine rejected their bill proposal, they would come back with a referendum the following year asking that even bear baiting be banned. Smith intimated in his writings that Maine might want to consider giving up trapping and hunting bears with dogs in order to save baiting. SAM’s current leadership fought hard against the anti bear hunting bill and saw it defeated and vowed they would battle viciously against HSUS. Is this the change of direction being referred to here?
Yes, I know, George Smith is not SAM any longer, but much of what he was instrumental in creating over his near 20-year reign, doesn’t seem to be meshing well with the new leadership at SAM. Membership has gone to the dogs, predators are running uncontrolled, the deer herd has all but disappeared in many places and some are trying to further reduce fishing opportunities in many of Maine’s bodies of water.
It appears to me this isn’t working and if Maine sportsmen really want to see changes, perhaps the best tool would be to make SAM a powerful force, actually fighting for the interests of the sportsmen and not special interest groups. I don’t know if that is the direction David Trahan intends to take SAM and perhaps only time will tell.
Jim Gorman and others gave of their time at SAM and for that we should be appreciative of and respectful. Times they are a changing and it appears Mr. Gorman and others need to move on and let SAM take a new direction. Sportsmen should get involved and make this change go in the right direction and ensure it doesn’t end up as another pal of environmental groups and pays attention to the interests of the members.
May 19, 2013
George Smith, blogger, columnist, and activist, writes that the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM) has seen three members of the Board of Directors resign – Jim Gorman, Jim Hilly, and Amos Eno. Reading more like an obituary, Smith says that Jim Gorman gave the reason for leaving SAM after 22 years of service as him not liking the direction SAM was headed. Perhaps after 22 years no direction is any longer likeable.
But never fear. It appears those 3 vacancies were quickly filled by Butch Moore, Steve Michaud, and Cathy DeMerchant. Good luck to the three who departed and congratulations to the three who replaced them.
May 16, 2013
In a way I sort of chuckled yesterday when I read a short news story from a Maine NBC television affiliate, WCSH6 out of Portland, about hungry bears coming out of hibernation. Specifically I got a kick out of this statement:
Police on Tuesday advised residents of one Rumford neighborhood to take in their bird feeders, gas grills and garbage cans after a black bear was spotted wandering around. Police tell the Sun Journal that once the food sources are removed, the bears will return to the woods.
I mean really? The bears will return to the woods? Might I ask why they came out of the woods to begin with? Isn’t it because during this time of the year there is so little natural food, it drives them out of the woods in search for human assistance?
While it is good advice to do what you can to “bear proof” your home and property, the notion that doing so will send the bears back to the woods is more than a bit misleading. The bears will return to the woods as soon as they have natural food to eat; that is providing people don’t continue to feed the bears.
May 14, 2013
It is that time of year when in Maine black bears emerge from their wintering dens. More than likely they are all out by now and some are probably hungry. Such was the report from the Bangor Daily News of events occurring in downtown Ellsworth, a small village south of Bangor, toward the coast.
In the BDN report, it suggested, from earlier press releases from MDIFW, that increases in these bear encounters happen when spring comes early.
Last year, when the state saw an early spring, the Maine Warden Service received 870 bear-related complaints — up from 436 complaints in 2011 and just 395 in 2010.
While this information may be true, what should have been included in this was a statement of fact that as bear populations increase, so to do the number of incidents of bear meeting man. I bring this point up because recently the Joint Standing Committee for Inland Fisheries and Wildlife voted “ought not to pass” a bill that would end bear hunting with dogs and trapping, among other limitations; a bill sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS). However, HSUS has promised a referendum on this issue next year.
Maine, like most all other states, implements hunting and trapping as a means of regulating the desired populations of game species, including predators. Should HSUS be successful in their referendum, from the information I have received to date on what the proposed referendum will look like, basically all aspects of bear hunting will be eliminated with the exception of stalking.
Already the bear population in Maine is at perhaps record high numbers with MDIFW facing a difficult task in getting hunters and trappers in enough numbers to keep in check the population. Contrary to popular belief, wildlife does not “balance itself” and one can easily and logically conclude that, among other difficulties, Maine people would be facing increased problems with bears.
The MDIFW spokesman speaks of, “bear incidents tend to slow down as summer progresses, when it’s easier for hungry bears to find natural food.” Again, this is true under “normal” circumstances. With overgrown bear populations, too many bears will be competing for food. If natural food is not abundant, the competition becomes even greater and this circumstance will tend to drive bears into human populated areas in search of food. Now imagine a scenario of too many bears AND not enough natural food.
Maine residents should be encouraged to take the advice of MDIFW in making your homes as bear proof as possible and don’t allow HSUS, or any other animal rights groups, to force our fish and game experts into managing or not managing wildlife based on social demands rather than science. Sound wildlife management benefits both humans and wildlife.
May 10, 2013
*Update* – The vote in the JSC was unanimous, ought not to pass.
According to an email I just received from Diane Steward, clerk Inland Fisheries & Wildlife and Marine Resources Committees in Maine, LD 1474 was voted on in the Joint Standing Committee for Inland Fisheries and Wildlife as “ought not to pass.” I do not know the actual vote count.
LD 1474 was a bill being sponsored by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) that would have effectively ended bear hunting and trapping in the state of Maine if it should pass. The “ought not to pass” recommendation now goes to the Legislature. More than likely, it should die a pleasant death.
However, HSUS has promised that if this bill does not pass, they will fight it with a referendum in 2014 and in addition to the bans sought in LD 1474, they will also seek an end to all baiting of bear.
May 7, 2013
LD 1474, sponsored by Representative Denise Patricia Harlow (D-Portland) and supported by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), would mostly do away with the tactics of bear hunting and trapping in Maine that aid and assist in proper black bear management. LD 1474, if it were to pass, would:
*Ban bear trapping and bear hunting with dogs. Under the bill, government officials would only be allowed to trap or use dogs on “specific offending” bears or for scientific studies
*Ban using a leashed dog to track a wounded bear
*Place a permanent prohibition on hunting bears between January 1st and July 31st
*Reduce the bear bag limit from two to one bear for all hunters.
With a loss of these tools, an already overblown population of black bears, many of which are contributing to a whitetail deer herd going extinct in much of Maine, would balloon out of proportion and further exacerbate the problems, not to mention increased encounters between the bear and humans.
Not included in this bill is a ban on bear baiting. This bill is very unlikely to make it through the legislative process, in which HSUS has already promised they intend another citizens’ referendum in 2014 and in that proposal it will also include a ban on baiting.
George Smith, who was executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine in 2004 when the last bear referendum was defeated, is indicating he may support a move to pass LD 1474 in order to save bear baiting. One has to ask whether Smith has learned anything about these sort of things over the years. Does he really think if HSUS won LD 1474, they would quietly go away and never bother Maine again? Me thinks he’s been hanging out with the environmentalists too much.
The hearing on this bill will be held on Friday, May 10th, with the Joint Committee on Fisheries and Wildlife. The hearing is scheduled for 10 A.M. in Room 206 in the Cross Office Building in Augusta.
Please attend or contact members of the Joint Standing Committee. This bill should never make it out of the hearing alive.
May 2, 2013
I wonder if Maine, as with other states that are being like chameleons, will eventually morph its Warden Service name into something, oh let’s say environmentally catchy like Natural Resources Office – unoriginal but why force any issue and dare to be different. But even with a name change to natural resource officer, it wouldn’t do service to the fact that “game” wardens appear to be spending less and less time being wardens of game and more and more time being counselors, councilors, search and rescue personnel, auto accident investigators and television stars: and for good luck, let’s toss in people who investigate private lands for illegal dumping.
An article found today in the Kennebec Journal in Maine, the writer labels the Maine wardens as “unsung heroes” and believes they are now “finally getting their due.”
So, let me get this straight. To this writer, editor for the Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, she thinks that Maine wardens have never gotten “their due” until they finally got completely away from the jobs they were hired to do? Well, that’s not exactly true. What job was they hired to do?
In 1880 there seemed a need for a law enforcement agency to enforce the newly created hunting, trapping and fishing laws. Dang! So, some brilliant person devised the name game warden. Their job was to police the game and make sure outdoor sportsmen were following the laws. In case anyone was wondering, these laws became necessary to conserve our game animals to ensure their sustainability. Even this author makes note that once thousands of applicants wanted to be a Maine Warden……that’s when they were game wardens. Today, it seems that Maine Game Wardens are as I described above and few want that job.
Even though sportsmen, along with the anti hunting environmentalists and animal rights quacks, complain that game is being poached and needs to be reduced (wardens will say they are understaffed and underfunded), Maine is sending officers to Connecticut to “debrief” some involved in the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. Along with this account, we are always reading of accounts of wardens doing what was once considered jobs for local law enforcement and/or state police and trained social workers.
I could spend a great deal of time listing all the non game activities wardens do but please I don’t think the Maine Warden Service’s role being social workers and television stars warrants the claim of “unsung hero” and “getting their due.”
If there is such a need for these programs, why a game warden service. If the Warden Service has time to do all these other things, then they are either overstaffed or are not doing their game work. Maine sportsmen should not be paying for the wardens to be doing auto accident investigations and counseling people in other states for whatever the reasons. What’s any of this got to do with game animals and laws that protect them? And why should the sportsmen be paying for it?