Maine ballot initiative would bring much-needed protections for bears
Black bears are beloved in Maine.
The species has been the mascot of the University of Maine since 1914 and celebrated as a major attraction for ecotourism and wildlife lovers in general. This is why it’s particularly shocking and hypocritical that Maine is the only state that still allows people to hunt bears using the cruel methods of hounds, bait and trapping.
Thankfully, a state coalition called Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting recently announced its intent to put a ballot initiative before voters to ban these brutal and arcane hunting practices. The coalition aims to gather 80,000 signatures by February 3, 2014 to place the issue before voters in the November 2014 election.
The International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has signed on as a proud endorser of this critical initiative, along with the HSUS, the ASPCA, and other lead national and state welfare organizations.
Clearly, there is no ethical justification for the brutal practices of bear trapping, hounding, and baiting.
To get a better picture of what Maine bears are up against, let’s walk through each of these three inhumane methods:
Baiting: this practice typically involves luring unsuspecting bears to an unnatural diet of rotting meat, pizza, and donuts. The bear is shot at close range while her head is buried in the piles of bait.
Trapping: This typically involves baiting the bears to attract them to a particular spot in the woods where a snare trap is set. Snares are made of light wire cable looped through a locking device tied so that it will tighten as the animal pulls against it. The more a snared bear struggles, the more extensive its injuries. Trappers have even reported snared animals chewing off their own paws to free themselves. Since these traps must be checked only once per day, the bear often suffers for hours in excruciating pain.
Hounding: This involves releasing several collared dogs to chase a frightened animal often for miles until the exhausted bear climbs a tree to escape or turns to confront the dog pack. By tracing the hound collars, hunters are then able to locate the bears and kill them at close range.
Maine stands alone as the only state to allow statewide all three methods to hunt bears. Other states with robust bear populations and hunting interests, like Colorado, Washington, and Oregon, all prohibited baiting and hounding more than 20 years ago.
It’s time for Maine to align with the rest of the country on this issue.
The Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting coalition will soon begin gathering the requisite signatures to put this important issue on the ballot in November of 2014.
PS: be sure to keep up on our efforts to protect wildlife from cruelty by signing up for IFAW Action Alerts using the box at the top of this page.