By Mike Marshall
I retired after serving 26 years as a Maine Game Warden in York County, Down East and Aroostook County. I would like to share a few insights about the upcoming bear hunting referendum.
The present laws regulating bear hunting in Maine are the most “fair chase” in its history. Early Maine laws allowed the killing of bears year round by about any means possible. Throughout much of Maine history, state government paid a bounty on bears. Fair chase was not considered.
Now there is only a fall season for licensed hunters and trappers to take bear. For a short time during this season, bears may be taken using bait. Then there is a short time hounds may be used to chase bear. Fall trapping is limited to the use of a single humane leg snare or live trap. A licensed hunter or trapper may register only one bear taken by hunting and one by trapping. Mandatory registering of a bear has a fee and requires submitting biological information on the bear and the location it was taken. A tooth is submitted to determine the bear’s age.
Our biologists keep detailed records on numbers and locations of where each bear is taken. Game Wardens enforce the management laws that are in place. Longstanding winter studies of radio-collared bears by professional bear biologists are ongoing.
We presently have a well-managed bear population in Maine. Our bear population is increasing slightly, likely due in part to increased habitat in southern Maine as old agricultural land turns into mature forests. Presently there are some human conflicts with bear and they are taken care of in different ways, sometimes including lethal means. These conflicts include damage done to bee hives, crops, livestock and public safety.
Some have said, “Baiting bears makes more bears.” I say bears make more bears. Last year, 2,845 bears were harvested in Maine, 93 percent were taken by the use of bait, dogs and traps. That means, without these methods, about 2,645 more bears would have been available to breed and increase their range with their young this year alone. It is not rocket science to understand how this would affect the health of the bear population, increased bear range into southern Maine and conflicts with humans over time.
Some have said, “Let the state take care of the problem.” What they are saying is stop the longstanding economic benefit to the lodges, motels, stores, gas stations, guides and other taxpayers who benefit from this renewable resource and increase government costs to solve increased problems that do not presently exist.
Please vote No on Question 1 and allow the management of our wildlife populations to continue under our present fair chase laws and be based on biology and science.
Mike Marshall of Big Lake Township is a retired Game Warden.