June 3, 2023

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

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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.