March 21, 2023

Bear Management in Maine Has Been a Profound Failure

*Editor’s Note* Guest blogs do not necessarily reflect the position of the editor, the owner, the staff or anyone else affiliated with this website.

A guest blog by Paul Camping from Maine

Bear management by the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) in Maine has been a profound failure, on a scale equivalent to or exceeding, their disastrous blunders in the management of deer. The responsible management of any game species requires keeping their populations at desired levels; not too few, not too many, but just right.

The MDIF&W has failed miserably on both counts. For the last 15 years, or possibly longer, the deer population has been crashing while the bear population has exploded out of control! And to make matters worse, they knew then that the bears were preying on deer fawns and moose calves, but did nothing to stop it. So the mismanagement of bears CONTRIBUTED to the decline of deer! If this isn’t a case of being asleep at the switch, I don’t know what is!

Here is an excerpt from the 2011 Bear Harvest Report:

“A population model of Maine black bears indicates the population can sustain a harvest of 15%. Thus a harvest of 3,500 bears was needed to stabilize Maine’s bear population conservatively estimated at 23,000 bears in 2004. However, in recent years we have not met our harvest objective. This low harvest rate coupled with high cub survival rates has allowed Maine’s bear population to grow. In the next year, we will be considering modifying hunting opportunities to stabilize Maine’s bear population based on a pending updated population estimate.” (emphasis added)

In my opinion, it’s a clear-cut admission of guilt and mismanagement. They screwed up and they know it. They can no longer hide their ineptitude when bears are showing up in backyards in record numbers simply because there are too damn many of them. They are starting to lay the ground work for a drastic reduction effort in the future. The proof of which is found in the last sentence above regarding their “pending updated population estimate”!

I predict the bear population will be 40,000 plus. All one has to do is look at the actual yearly harvest figures as a percentage of the harvest goal, to determine whether the population grew, declined or remained stable. I’ve run the numbers and you can readily see, like compounding interest on a bank account, bears have increased by at least 5% every year for the last 15 years!

Last years abysmal harvest of 2,400 bears severely exasperated the situation!

There is more than enough blame to go around. The Maine legislature is complicit too. First and foremost, has been the ridiculously low bag limit of one bear per hunter or trapper per year. This was only recently changed to 2, one bear by each method of taking. The second legislative mistake is the crazy fee structure imposed on residents who would like to try both hunting and trapping of bears. This combined outdoor activity requires a hunting license ($25.00), an early season bear permit ($27.00), a trapping license ($35.00) and a bear trapping license ($27.00). That amounts to $114.00. And it’s 3 times more expensive for non-residents! SERIOUSLY! Are they deliberately going out of their way to discourage the harvesting of bears? Now factor in the cost of bait and you have priced the common man right out of the market!

And then they wonder why license sales are declining! Any accountant will tell you that sales are inversely proportional to the cost of the item being sold. If they want to sell more licenses they should make them more affordable.