August 17, 2019

Maine Bear Facts

*Editor’s Note* The bear harvest information for 2012 was changed to correct an error. I had posted the harvest figure from the 2012 bear hunting season. I apologize for any inconvenience this may have caused.

Emotional and uninformed environmental activists, with an agenda that isn’t about wildlife conservation, responsible management and healthy wildlife populations, want to ban all methods of harvesting black bears, with the exception of “spot and stalk”, a method of attempting to sneak up on a bear (good luck with that).

On May 8, 2013, the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) updated their “Bear Facts.” Please find a complete copy of this updated Bear Facts at this link.

Liars with the Humane Society of the United States and Wildlife Alliance of Maine have stated publicly, while playing on the emotions of Maine citizens, that there is no scientific evidence that shows that the use of baiting, hounding and trapping bears is a necessary part of controlling bear populations and maintaining a healthy crop of bears.

A key point in Bear Facts is the statement about how MDIFW formulated a “public working group” to obtain input as to what the public wants from living with bears. The working group, made up of landowners, forestry officials, sportsmen, and environmentalists, offered input that would achieve the following:

1. Stabilize the bear population with hunting and trapping.
2. Promote traditional hunting and trapping methods.
3. Promote public tolerance of bears in Maine.

The MDIFW states that, “Regulated Hunting is the Primary Tool to Achieve Publics’ Goals and Objectives.” The following is a synopsis of what MDIFW states as being a necessary part of achieving desired bear management goals.

1. A harvest of between 3,500 and 4,500 bears is needed in order to “stabilize” bear populations. Maine’s 2012 black bear harvest information was just posted today at the MDIFW website. The bear harvest for Maine for 2012, including all methods of harvesting bears, i.e. hunting, baiting, trapping, hounding, etc., was 3,207 bears. That’s up to 1,500 bears short of objective just to stabilize the population. What is going to happen to this fact of reality if the environmentalists get their way and take MDIFW’s bear management tools away from them?

2. Bear harvest has been declining since 2005 and MDIFW reports bear numbers have continued to grow, now with an estimated 30,000 bears in Maine.

3. MDIFW states that “hunting bear over bait is the most effective way to hunt bears and meet population objectives” but that trapping and hounding are also needed as no one of these methods can achieve desired goals. Even with baiting being the “most effective” way to hunt bears, success rates are only around 30%. Compare that rate to the following: moose hunting = 79%, turkey hunters = 38%, deer hunters = 14%. (These numbers come from 2012 numbers when deer harvest numbers are at very low rates due to a heavily diminished deer herd.) “Spot and stalk” bear hunting doesn’t seem to achieve any percentage of the bear harvest.

4. MDIFW also states that in other states that have limited or have eliminated bear baiting and hounding, it makes management “unworkable” and further states that it would not work in Maine due to terrain and thick vegetation.

5. The only kind of “self regulation” bears can accomplish if MDIFW is unable to employ the necessary tools to do their jobs, is achieved through starvation and disease and with higher population numbers, conflicts with humans would also increase.

It is clear that at present MDIFW cannot accomplish management goals for black bears with a full complement of hunting methods available to keep numbers in check. If these extreme environmental organizations have their way in 2014 and ban the necessary harvest methods as laid out by the state, in conjunction with a working group comprised of a cross section of the citizenry, Maine may be witness to extremely high levels of bear malnourishment, starvation and disease, along with increased human bear conflicts, increasing the odds that someone is going to be attacked and killed by a bear.

Make no mistake about it. A hungry bear is a dangerous animal.

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If Officials Can’t Find Bears to Count, How Can Hunters “Spot and Stalk”

In Maine, back in 2004, a referendum to end bear baiting, trapping and hunting with hounds was defeated by the voters. The same environMENTALists are planning another attack on, not only Maine’s hunting traditions, but also to rid the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) of the tools necessary to manage a healthy bear population.

According to an archived article that was originally published in the Portland Press Herald on October 10, 2004, that has been made available to me, the MDIFW stated that, “without the current hunting methods, black bear numbers will grow, and bears increasingly will forage in populated areas, creating public safety risks.”

Any rational thinking person would have to conclude that 9 years later and better data that shows that the bear population is growing in Maine to perhaps record numbers, that not only are the current hunting methods necessary to keep populations in check, officials need to come up with creative ways to harvest more bears. (Note: It has been months and months and still MDIFW has yet to release the bear harvest numbers for 2012.)

Maine Citizens for Fair Bear Hunting, a conglomeration of radical fringe animal rights groups like the Humane Society of the United States and Wildlife Alliance of Maine, says that the only necessary means of hunting bears is through what they like to call “spot and stalk.” Spot and stalk is a method of hunting any game by sneaking through the woods until a hunter “spots” game and then “stalks” it until given a chance to kill it. For some, this is the choice of hunting because of the challenge. That option should not be taken away from those hunters who choose to do that.

However, “spot and stalk” provides such a tiny success rate, that with only that method of hunting bears, it would do nothing to keep the bear population in check. Officials at MDIFW need to have at their disposal proven methods of hunting in order to manage a healthy bear population and provide for public safety.

In a recent article I published here on this blog, I provided data to show the elusiveness of the black bear, partly due to its tremendous sense of smell; seven times that of the bloodhound.

In the same archived Portland Press Herald article referred to above, there was lengthy debate and information provided by the author about the difficulties that exist with fish and game experts all across the country in being able to accurately count bears for population estimates. In Georgia in 2004, for example, then Georgia bear biologist David Gregory said, “Black bears are difficult animals to count. Unlike moose or antelope, which can be spotted from the sky, bears are reclusive, lurking among bushes and brush.”How can you count them when you can’t see them? You have to use all these indirect methods.”

Certainly if trained professionals can’t find bears in order to count them, why would anyone of knowledge in black bear management, think that “spot and stalk” bear hunting would be a successful means of controlling black bear populations?

As a warning to readers, groups are circulating petitions and asking Maine citizens to sign them in order to destroy Maine’s bear hunting traditions and strap the MDIFW to hamper their means of proper and proven bear management. Do NOT sign any of these petitions until you have the facts. The information these groups are using is incorrect. It is designed to play on your emotions and have no basis in sound wildlife science.

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