June 8, 2020

Maine: CSF Leads Effort to Counter Proposed Bear Baiting Ban

Contact: Joe Mullin, New England States Senior Coordinator

On June 2, the Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) submitted written testimony to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) in opposition to a bear baiting ban petition that the Department received. The proposal would amend Chapter 16.09 – Bear Hunting of the MDIFW Rules as they relate to bear baiting – an effective and legitimate wildlife management tool that is implemented to control the bear population and reduce human-wildlife conflicts.

In the short-run, the proposal would inhibit the ability of Maine’s sportsmen and women to use bait that contains refined sugar while bear hunting. This key ingredient is an element in almost all of the preferred baits used by hunters and guides. Ultimately, this is a roundabout attempt at completely barring the practice of baiting, as it would make it nearly impossible for sportsmen and women to use an effective lure. Relatedly, this proposal would require hunters who plan to “bait” bears without “feeding” them to use a bear-proof container, completely preventing any form of physical contact with the bait. This arbitrary obligation would make this method of hunting entirely cost-prohibitive, while also exposing hunters to potential fines and penalties if their bear-proof equipment fails to be resilient, and allows the bear’s access to the bait.

In the long-run, the proposal calls for a complete end to the practice of bear baiting by the end of the 2029 season – a revelation of the true intent of this petition. Outside of eliminating an efficient form of hunting, restricting the use of, or implementing a complete ban on baiting will limit the Maine guiding community’s available methods of take, resulting in economic losses for the state. From a conservation standpoint, the petition poses to threaten the state’s fish and wildlife management funding, as generated under the American System of Conservation Funding. Lower hunter success results in lower licenses sold – in turn, the state receives lower funding. This proposal would also eliminate a critical wildlife management tool that MDIFW relies on to keep the bear population in check and reduce human-wildlife conflict. Last year, 65% of the bears harvested in Maine were taken with the aid of bait.

In conjunction with submitting stand-alone testimony against this proposal, CSF lead an effort to develop and submit a sign-on letter from 17 in-state and national conservation organizations, demonstrating wide-spread opposition from the sportsmen’s community at large. As stated in the letter, the broad coalition encourages the proposal to be rejected to “…ensure that an emotional appeal by a vocal minority does not trump more than a century of sound, science-based management which has resulted in burgeoning wildlife populations throughout the State.”

CSF would like to thank all those who assisted in fighting this arbitrary rule proposal. Moving forward, CSF will continue to provide updates on this issue as they are become available.

Studies conducted at both the state and federal level have found that the number of hunters and trappers have been on a generally declining trend over the past several decades. To increase recruitment, retention, and reactivation (R3) of hunters and trappers, which initiative do you think would have the greatest impact?

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