By Ann Bryant
WILTON — The Board of Selectpersons unanimously agreed Tuesday, on behalf of the town, to sign a resolution opposing the Nov. 4 referendum question banning the use of bait, dogs and traps for bear hunting.
During the board meeting, Bob Parker and Peter Shippee, both of Wilton, sought the town’s support of a no vote and signing of the resolution as other towns have done, Parker said. Parker and his wife have owned Stony Brook Outfitters, a guide-hunting camp in Wilton, since 1980.
“If this passes, I’m out of business,” Parker said. “It’s bad for Maine, bad for the community. Money changes hands eight times in the community. The economic impact is huge.”
Parker is treasurer of the Maine Professional Guides Association, which is sponsoring the resolution. Shippee is also a guide and hunter, he said.
“Sometimes we need to hunt animals to keep a good healthy herd,” he said.
It is the job of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Department to maintain and keep a healthy handle on all species, Parker said Wednesday. They are on top of the bear population, an estimated 30,000-plus black bears in Maine, one of the largest populations in the country.
“The ban would take away all our management tools,” he said. “The DIFW says we need to harvest 4,000 bears a year to keep the population healthy.”
“We need these methods to harvest animals with a good, clean, ethical shot,” he said. “The Humane Society is playing on people’s emotions. Maine’s terrain is different than examples the society is using from states out West.”
A lot of states would love to have our renewable resource, Shippee said of the bear population.
“It’s important that the town takes leadership and shows people we understand the facts,” he said.
The board agreed.
The ban on bear baiting, has the potential to not just do away with bear hunting but eventually take away all hunting, Selectperson Tom Saviello said. He was referring to recent reports that the agenda of the Humane Society of the United States is to chip away at Maine hunting altogether.
The Humane Society, which proposed the ban, has pledged to spend up to $3 million to pass the referendum, he said. A similar society-endorsed referendum failed with Maine voters in 2004.
With a budget of $154 million, the Humane Society of the United States can reach out for change in any state, Parker said. It could be bird hunting down the road, he said.
In the meantime, hardworking people have to come up with money, about $2.5 million, just to get ads out opposing the referendum and to educate voters in Southern Maine, he said.
State biologists and Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife game wardens who oppose the referendum ban are all on the same page, Saviello said. It’s not a maybe … this would be terrible, for a number of reasons, if this went through, he said.
No one supporting the ban has come out and said how, if passed, the ban would help the state of Maine, Selectperson Tiffany Maiuri said.
“It’s a no-brainer,” she said. “It will hurt the state of Maine in all aspects.”
Parker hopes that other people will follow suit and seek their town’s signing of the resolution, he said.
The resolution will be given to James Cote, coalition leader for the Maine Wildlife Conservation Council, Parker said.