November 1, 2004


Bear-hunting measure creates a steel-trap divide in Maine: The referendum would limit trapping and 'baiting,' fostering a rift between north and south, urban and rural. (Sara B. Miller, 11/02/04, CS Monitor)

Support breaks down geographically, with the forested north pitted against the more populated south. "It cuts very strongly north to south," says Christian Potholm, a pollster and professor of government at Bowdoin College in Brunswick, Me. Yet despite common stereotypes that hunters tend to be gun-toting Republicans and animal rights groups Democrats, the question does not break down by party affiliation. "It is quite nonpartisan," Mr. Potholm says.

The conflict between bear and human has surfaced in other states. The legality of bear baiting in Alaska is being questioned in this election, too. Bear hunting is currently allowed in 28 states. Eleven allow baiting, while 17 permit hunting with hounds. Maine has the largest bear population east of the Mississippi River, with 23,000. Some 4,000 are killed by hunters each year, the far majority with bait. It is the only state to allow trapping.

On a crisp fall day, Bill Randall places a tree limb in a trap, whose teethed jaws quickly snarl it. Whack. It slams shut. Mr. Randall, a former hunter who used to trap bears, is a lead proponent of doing away with bear trapping, baiting, and hounding. It was a gradual change of heart. "It is a learning curve, an appreciation of wildlife that comes with aging and education," he says.

Like other referendum supporters, Randall has drawn the ire of the hunting community. "It would be so hard to hunt bears without the use of bait that the number of kills would drop," says Tim Barry, a hunting guide in Kingfield, Me. And that would surely cause a spike in nuisance calls, now about 300 a year, he says, and could mean bears in backyards and near schools.

Whether bear management will spiral out of control and how much money is at stake if the referendum passes is contentious. Opponents estimate $62 million would be lost in food, hotel, licensing, and other expenses related to hunting. Supporters claim the number is much smaller. They also say bears can self-regulate....

Ah, it's the Darwinists...

Posted by Orrin Judd at November 1, 2004 8:27 PM

On the contrary, it's not the Darwinists, but the neopagans--the nature-worshippers. (Unless you think they are the same thing)

Right now, the bear population is part of a rifle ecology: numbers are managed by the game departments for the benefit of the apex predators--the hunters. Populations are studied and the take is fine-tuned by means of open seasons and, if neccessary, a permit system.

Tree-huggers do not like hunter ecology. They would prefer to see game populations controlled the natural way, by starvation and disease. Outlawing baiting bears in Maine is sort of like outlawing hunting mountain lions with dogs, as they have done in California. You shut down the principal way the region's hunters have been taking the resource and radically alter the ecology in favor of the animals. In California the result has been that the lions now kill people (they seem to like joggers). Who can say what the efect in Maine would be with the bears. At least, a lot of road-kills, I would say.

Posted by: Lou Gots at November 1, 2004 8:56 PM

I spent a number of years owning hounds, used to hunt 'coon, wildcat and bear, up in the shadow of NE CA's Mt. Lassen.
Bear hunting/running was almost always begun in or around the small town garbage dumps, I guess that could be called "baiting".
That said, the trapping and baiting, as described in the article, are not methods I would have been comfortable with.
But the use of dogs, ie: hounds, a superb sub-genre of the canine world, I just love all the breeds of hound, to find, chase(run) and corner(tree)predator game is an enjoyment which has to be experienced to be believed.

Posted by: Mike Daley at November 1, 2004 10:49 PM

Mr. Randall, a former hunter who used to trap bears, is a lead proponent of doing away with bear trapping, baiting, and hounding. It was a gradual change of heart.

People like this are often so annoying. They're like former fatties who've slimmed down and now lecture you about having desert, even though you're not overweight. I have no interest in hunting bears, but I also have no interest in stopping people from doing so. It's that much-reviled (around here) libertarian philosophy in action!

Posted by: PapayaSF at November 1, 2004 11:16 PM

I grew up in South Paris, Maine and would see bears on occasion -- you'd climb up a streambank and glimpse a shaggy brown butt shuffling off. They were enthusiastically hunted and probably more scared of us than we of them -- weapons of choice around there were a 12-gauge and a six pack. We stayed out of the woods during deer season.

Posted by: joe shropshire at November 2, 2004 12:00 AM

How do bears self-regulate? Does a self-regulated bear only forage in the garage, not the kitchen?

Posted by: pj at November 2, 2004 12:42 AM

I too coon hunt. Raise Blueticks.

Bear Joke

A bear walks into a bar in Billings, Montana and sits down. He bangs on the bar with his paw and demands a beer.

The bartender approaches and says, "We don't serve beer to bears in bars in Billings."
The bear, becoming angry, demands again that he be served a beer.

The bartender tells him again, more forcefully, "We don't serve beer to belligerent bears in bars in Billings."

The bear, very angry now, says, "If you don't serve me a beer, I'm going to eat that lady sitting at the end of the bar."

The bartender says, "Sorry, we don't serve beer to belligerent, bully bears in bars in Billings"

The bear goes to the end of the bar, and, as promised, eats the woman. He comes back to his seat and again demands a beer.

The bartender states, "Sorry, we don't serve beer to belligerent, bully bears in bars in Billings who are on drugs."

The bear says, "I'm NOT on drugs."

The bartender says, "You are now. That was a barbitchyouate."

Posted by: h-man at November 2, 2004 6:31 AM
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