The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) issued a warning earlier this month, advising residents that black bear complaints are on the rise. Efforts to control an increasing bear population are now on thin ice thanks to an upcoming referendum that seeks to ban several hunting methods.
“Maine has a large bear population, and this time of year after emerging from their winter dens, hungry bears are out looking for food,” said IFW black bear biologist Jen Vashon said in a press release. “We want to remind people to remove common backyard attractants so they don’t create a potentially dangerous interaction with a black bear.”
Biologists currently estimate there to be between 24,000 and 36,000 black bears living in the state. Since 2004, the bear population has increased by over 30 percent and correspondingly, so has the number of bear complaints. The IFW now responds to an average of 500 nuisance bear calls every year.
“Hunting is the Department’s primary tool for managing this thriving bear population,” Vashon said previously. “To manage Maine’s bear population at levels desired by a diverse public, Maine allows bear hunters to use several traditional methods over a three-month fall hunting season.”
Those methods involve the use of hounds, traps, and bear baiting. Some animal rights groups claim that these methods are inhumane, unsporting, and unsustainable. Earlier this year the advocacy group Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting submitted nearly 80,000 signatures to put the issue of banning the three hunting methods on the November ballot. The organization notes that Maine is the only state in the nation to allow all three harvest methods.
Many hunters claim that the rise in bear complaints and overall increase in the bear population call for more, not less, bear hunting.
Featured image in the public domain