Animal rights advocates recently filed a lawsuit against Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (DIFW) for the agency’s “heavy-handed intervention” regarding a forthcoming ballot proposal on bear hunting in the state. Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, the organization that filed the lawsuit, claims that the DIFW is doing too much to support current bear hunting practices such as the use of hounds, traps, and bait—which activists oppose.
In November Maine voters will be able to decide whether or not they want these methods to still be legal in the state, and the DIFW is strongly in support of keeping its bear season unchanged.
“The Department opposes Question 1 since if it passes, it would cripple the Department’s ability to control the bear population. That will lead to more nuisance bear complaints and increased threats to public safety. More bears will die from disease and starvation. Towns and property owners will face increased costs to deal with nuisance bears,” the DIFW said in a recent press release.
Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting claim that the department’s expenditure of taxpayer money and staff time to conduct a “political” campaign is illegal. Activists are now asking the DIFW to turn over all records related to its campaign against Question 1.
“The IF&W is coordinating with opponents of Question 1 and out-of-state trophy hunters who have set up the most extreme and unsportsmanlike bear killing program in the nation,” Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting states on its website. “Officials with this executive agency are falsely holding themselves up as impartial experts, but they’re behaving as anything but that. The agency, which receives substantial funding from hunting licenses, is pressing forward with an aggressive political agenda, designed to inflate bear populations through widespread supplemental feeding of bears to offer guaranteed kill opportunities to out-of-state bear hunters.”
A number of experts from the department have spoken out against limiting the state’s bear hunt, which they see as an important management tool for a growing bear population. In fact, data from the DIFW showed that 93 percent of all bears harvested since 1999 were taken using bait (79 percent), hounds (11 percent), and traps (three percent). Randy Cross, a renowned bear expert with the DIFW, said that without hunting bears will eventually encroach on human neighborhoods or become overpopulated in that natural habitat.
“Nothing makes me more sad than seeing bears that are bags of bones from lack of food or withering away in the woods after being hit by a car. I don’t want these bears dying of a long painful death instead of quick death by bullet,” Cross told The Boston Globe. “I’m the one who has to look the bear in the eye. I have a pretty good idea of what is cruel.”
The video embedded below was released to the public by Maine biologists and wardens opposing Question 1.
Image copyright Getty Images/Lynn_Bystrom