November 15, 2019

Maine Moose History and Shucking Bears

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A couple of issues jumped out at me that I found reading two articles published in Maine newspapers recently. The first had to do with an article in the Bangor Daily News about the history of Maine’s moose and their moose hunt.

The article presents a timeline of events that began with how unregulated moose killing led to the end of all moose hunting, ending with the present day limited moose hunt lottery. The article, as written, states: 1980:┬áChanges in forest practices, including clear-cutting, have provided moose with more habitat and food sources, and the herd shows signs of consistent growth.”

This is actually a partially inaccurate statement. Yes, there were changes in forest practices that have been ongoing, but everyone knows that it was the event of the outbreak of the spruce budworm and the resulting clear-cutting in efforts to salvage as much timber as possible that provided millions of acres of prime moose habitat. There was so much habitat as a result that Maine grew an artificially high population of moose. (Note: This same event and resulting clear-cuts, also provided false growths in rabbits, the prime food source for Canada lynx. And yes, the clear-cuts caused a false growth in Canada lynx and as these clear-cuts change, we are still attempting to artificially grow the number of Canada lynx.)

Two things have been happening since. First, because of man’s greed and ignorance, we attempted, and still are, to sustain a moose population approaching 100,000 animals. Mother Nature responded by knocking that population down with winter ticks providing an unnecessary and tormenting way to die for moose – wasted meat that would have provided some Maine families with nutritious food. Second, it’s been nearly 50 years since the spruce budworm and much of that prime habitat has changed.

In short, Maine’s generous uptick in moose numbers was an accident and not simply due to man’s efforts at management.

The second issue I found was in George Smith’s article about not needing to be scared of bears. George tells stories of some of his and his families’ dealings with black bears, and in one case of how he gathered up the family to run down to the shore of the lake to be there when a mother bear and two of her cubs came swimming across the lake.

George’s stories are presented as cute, fun, exciting, and never a serious word of caution. All the stories and accounts the author tells are probably true, but, what of that one time when a person, or family, due to “cute, fun, and exciting,” find themselves in a position where the mother bear will do whatever it feels is necessary to protect her cubs? Then what? Oh, yeah, yell.

Even domestic animals can be unpredictable but this is seldom, if ever, taught to our children. The family dog or the neighbor’s cat are always seen by people, children in particular because of how they are taught, as always approachable, never looking for signs that might indicate to stay away or having been taught that because they are animals they are unpredictable.

This incorrect teaching and attitude that animals are nothing but cute, fun, and exciting, it what causes those “rare” occasions when animal attacks person.

Perhaps instead of saying that there is no need to be scared of bears, we should be a bit more honest with ourselves and those around us and say that we don’t need to be scared but because it is an animal, and a potentially vicious predator, we need to be respectfully cautious, assuming that we might be treading where the bear, or other animal, may not want us to be.

Maybe then, those “rare” instances will become even rarer.

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