Tuesday, October 21, 2014

#BtC4Animals Bear Baiting

I live in Maine.  On the fourth day of November we will be asked to vote on a referendum banning bear baiting.

Here’s the exact language: “Do you want to ban the use of bait, dogs or traps in bear hunting except to protect property, public safety, or for research.”

The animal advocate in me says YES YES YES oh heck YES!, but the blogger in me wonders why the Maine Game Wardens and Biologists are saying vote no. So I went into this hoping to find some bit of logical sense in all this for the opposition, to educate myself and maybe learn something.

Before delving into all of that, let me share with you something. There are currently only twelve states that allow bear baiting. Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, New Jersey, Oklahoma, Utah, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Maine is the only state in the union that allows all three methods that they are trying to ban in this vote, baiting, trapping and using dogs.

So, to find out why I should "Vote No on One" I went to savemainesbearhunt.com. I have been extremely unhappy with the "No on One" campaign commercials in general, using a lot of fear and intimidation, implying that without bear baiting, bears will be coming up and mauling your children in your backyard

There have also been commericals implying that there will be nothing that can be done if these bears do come up into your neighborhood and are aggressive.. (except the question says you can to protect property or for public safety) (interestingly enough the No on One camp does not have it's commercials on it's website but the Yes on One does.  There are some really good ones on there, but this is an exercise in why I should vote no.)

So again, why do they oppose this?

Reading "savemainesbearhunt.org" (do you find that name as irritating as I do? You can still hunt bears, you just won't be able to bait them or trap them or use hounds to hunt them) They are saying that with out these 'reliable" methods of hunting, the cull of the population would go down. That it is very hard to hunt a bear with out these methods, and with an increased population you will have increased aggression in the population as they go in search of food. A quote from that website: "Consider: A year ago, hunters shot 2,845 bears in Maine. Of those bears, at least 2,633 — a whopping 93 percent of the total harvest — were shot using the methods that may be banned come November." *  Well considering these methods are legal, and cheap and easy, who wouldn't use them?? I don't think that is much of an argument.

However, reading their own website and reading the history of bear hunting, one has to wonder what the biologists and game wardens are thinking. Currently the cull is below management levels they themselves set and the population is increasing anyway. The history of bear hunting is that we used to do it twice a year, now we currently only allow it once a year. If hunting bears is so hard and getting rid of baiting would make it that much harder, why do we not allow increased time for hunts? Why are there still caps of two bears per hunter? Couldn't better management of the population occur with a fair hunt if done right?

Another reason they say we should allow baiting and trapping is because it allows for a 'cleaner kill'. I can't really fault that reasoning. Apparently a running bear is kinda hard to hit and can cause a hunter to wound the animal and not outright kill it. When this happens with a deer, it is not hard to imagine the hunter tracking the deer through the woods to either claim his deer or finish it off and then claim it. With a bear you run the risk of running into an injured bear being mauled. Okay, point to the baiting, but it also seems to be more fair to allow the bear the chance of getting away. If you want a bear sitting still when you shoot it, set up near a berry bush, or somewhere else a bear would naturally forage for food.

Interestingly enough, the Vote No on One camp admits there are no statistics on how many bears eat at traps and are never killed. They do claim that bear population isn't influenced by baiting, but I can't see how they can possibly claim that. There is a nice chart on this video showing the population waxing and waning, but would it go lower if there weren't millions of pounds of food put in the woods to 'feed the bears'? I don't know about you, but I grew up on Yogi Bear and learned from a very early age not to feed the bears. Feeding bears gets them used to people and gets them used to coming around populated areas.. They bait bears in the same area year after year, making the bears used to being able to find easy food.

So tell me again why are we baiting bears?

While looking for videos of the commercials playing on our airways on youtube, I came across this video of a fisher cat at a bait station. So how many other animals are we feeding, because no one is required to take the food up when they aren't watching it. And if you didn't know, fisher cats also prey on house cats.

Now I should probably tell you I am not a hunter (you have probably guessed that anyway) and I really abhor the idea and the practice of hunting, but I do fully accept that unless we cull the herd, the population will explode past the point of the land being able to sustain the animals and they will suffer and starve. They will also encroach on to land that is 'occupied by people' and become a nuisance (even though they were here first) and harm will most likely come to either a person or the bear. I also accept that if the hunter is going to use the animal for which he hunts and not discard it to simply display a trophy on a wall (or a rug on the floor) that the kill has a purpose. The meat can feed a family and keep a cow or a pack of chickens from being killed. Trophy hunters are abhorrent to me.

There have been other states that have banned baiting. According to one of the Yes on One commercials, when they have banned baiting in other states they were able to maintain a stable bear population.

So, voting no on one will make it easier for people to hunt by making the bears come to the people, and hopefully allowing for a cleaner shot, and they won't have to take fifteen days to find a bear to shoot.  *sarcasm on* oh yes, let us vote no on one *sarcasm off*

I really was open to finding an actual reason why we should continue to allow baiting, using dogs and traps to maintain the bear population. I don't think it would have changed my mind in voting no, but I was hoping there was something other than 'it is easier' as a reason.

(I know I'm late on BtC, but I wanted to blog about this, and it took a while to do all the reading and catch the commercial I wanted to share)


  1. The whole hunting thing is totally mysterious and unfathomable to my human, and we live in California where this type of baiting is not allowed. So any opinion she or I would have would be ill-informed.

  2. Second try - Blogger isn't responding very well.. Interesting blog/research; didn't realize you lived in Maine or that bear-baiting is allowed there! Summers comment, above, also interesting [proving 'States' Rights'... Here in Burundi [central africa] forbidden to shoot crocodiles hippopotami [we're by Lake Tanganyika] - also, chimps, and some other animals. But human nature being what it is [or is not] that certainly doesn't stop folks from trying! Will share your research and merci!


  3. We're having a lot of bear issues in this area of Florida (neighborhoods built into the edge of former wilderness is kind of asking for it) and I just looked. Yep, we allow baiting. What the hey? I knew they baited the poorly-thought-out traps, but wasn't aware that hunters could use bait. IF you are going to leave it sitting around when you aren't present, you have to register it online, but if you are going to sit and watch it, it is not considered a bait station. So if you're going to sit and watch it, it doesn't exist in the eyes of the law, apparently. It seems like there must be humane forms of herd management. Anyhow, none of that is about Maine, but you managed to educate me about our local practices, too. It sounds like a lot of political propaganda surrounding the vote up there, and we're sorry you have to listen to all of that. We hope the best decision is made for the bears.

  4. We're glad our state doesn't allow it - but then again, I don't think Kansas has a lot of bears.... So sorry that it's a "thing" - baiting with DOGS?!?!?!?

  5. Baiting just doesn't seem right to us.


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