On May 1 our club had the IF&W (Inland Fisheries & Wildlife) come in to speak about the upcoming referendum regarding the methods of hunting bear in the state of Maine. During their presentation I discovered information I did not know and some that concerned me with my high school knowledge of population maximums. I discovered during the course of their presentation that only approximately 7% of the bears harvested each year are from still hunting. This is one of the only methods that will be allowed in the state of Maine if this referendum passes.
Now to some that might sound like a good thing, more bears for people to see. However with simple high school knowledge of population growth one would be able to determine that if the number of bears harvested is cut by approximately 93% the population of bears will drastically increase. Now with increased bear populations I am left wondering how many bears can the Maine ecosystem support before there is serious damage to our already venerable ecosystem, not to mention serious human bear conflicts.
Like humans bears are omnivores meaning they eat both meat and fruits and other plant materials. A good portion of our state still relies on farming to support their families and others rely on their personal gardens to supplement their grocery shopping. If the bear population grew to a size that could not be supported by the wild animal and plant life they would be forced to invade our gardens and farms for food. This not only would be detrimental to the economy of the state of Maine but would also bring the bears in closer to the human population.
Currently there are only approximately 500 counts of bears conflicting with humans a year, which may sound like a lot to some, however with a population of bears estimated to be around 30,000. With simple math, that equates to approximately 1.7% of bears adversely interacting with humans. Now if the bear population went up to 40,000 bears and that percentage stayed the same it would equate to approximately 667 conflicts. However, if the population grows the bears will not be able to keep the majority of their population all in the northern part of the state where the human population is sparser. That would mean more bears in areas where humans normally feel safe from the native wild animals of the state of Maine. As this would occur it would be expected that the number of conflicts between the human and bear populations to increase.
Personally I enjoy going into the woods to find Maine wild blueberries and other edible plants that the Maine woods have to offer as well as photographing the wildlife and hunting on occasion when seasons allow. However, I also enjoy being able to go into downtown Portland or to the Kittery outlets and be able to shop without fear of a bear being in the store I am about to enter or around the corner from where I am.
My main point here is that our means to of maintain a healthy yet safe bear population is working, so why should we vote to reduce the number of bears harvested each year. It will not only affect those who hunt in the state of Maine locals and tourists, might I add here that a good portion of the States revenues come from tourism, but those who enjoy the outdoors in other ways along with those who enjoy the state’s other attractions. Now I also have not mentioned that an increase in the bear population would increase the number of motor vehicle accidents involving bears and cars. But I would hope that most people have enough common sense to figure out some of the other items I have left out as well. I am sometimes called a pessimist because I talk about all the bad however I truly am an optimist when it comes to believing that Mainers can and will make the right decisions that will best suit the growth and development of the State of Maine.
I hope come November the state of Maine residents will prove me right and vote no on the bear referendum and save the state of Maine money and heartache down the road.