Coalition Wants Voters to Decide on Banning Bear Hunting Techniques 

A statewide coalition wants voters to decide whether Maine should ban the use of bait, traps and dogs to hunt bears. Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting is launching a petition drive to get the referendum on the ballot in November of 2014.Daryl DeJoy, executive director of the Wildlife Alliance of Maine, says “We actually want to continue the traditional forms of hunting. We are not opposed to hunting bears and this referendum is not about hunting bears. “DeJoy says the group Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting wants to do away with tactics used to hunt bears – trapping, hounding and baiting. “So when people go to the polls they’ll be able to vote on whether or not they feel that trapping bears and shooting them at close range, shooting a bear out of tree after chasing it with dogs or putting millions of pounds of junk food in the woods is an acceptable way to hunt bear.”The group – which includes the Wildlife Alliance of Maine and the Humane Society of the United States – plans to gather 80,000 voter signatures to put the issue on the ballot in about a year-and-a-half. It would come exactly 10 years after Mainers rejected a similar referendum.David Trahan, the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, says, “Really nothings changed since then, except that the bear population has grown significantly. It’s now at over 30,000 which is the largest bear population in the United States. And bear nuisance complaints have over doubled.”Trahan says just this session state lawmakers also turned down the idea of limiting bear hunting. “Right now Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is already struggling to maintain a sustainable bear population to keep it’s population in check. Taking away these three important tools we see as making that extremely difficult. And in time, could be a public safety issue.”But DeJoy says that’s not the case in other states that have returned to fair chase techniques. “This is purely about doing away with what we view and what we think most of the people of Maine will view as the least ethical ways to hunt bears.”Thirty-two states allow bear hunting but referendum supporters say none of them allow all three techniques of dogs, baiting and trapping.