Contact: Joe Mullin, New England States Senior Coordinator
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) is currently collecting comments regarding a proposal it received to amend the State’s bear hunting rules. The proposed regulations would prohibit the “intentional feeding” of bears – also referred to as baiting – with products that contain refined sugar, and seeks to ultimately end this hunting method by 2029.
Refined sugar may be found in the majority of lures utilized by Maine black bear hunters and guides. Barring the use of this ingredient serves no purpose other than to constrict bear baiting by limiting the available options of attractants. Nonetheless, during instances in which the black bears would not be “feeding” on the bait, hunters must keep the food “in a bearproof container that prevents bears from coming into physical contact with the bait under all conditions.” This arbitrary requirement seeks to make it cost-prohibitive for sportsmen and women to hunt in this particular manner – despite its effectiveness in managing the bear population.
Hunters from across the nation travel to Maine each year to take part in a black bear hunt – a tradition that has been woven into the state’s cultural fabric. The MDIFW’s 2019 Maine Black Bear Harvest reported that 65% of the bears harvested in Maine were taken over bait, highlighting the successfulness and value of this practice. From this data, the MDIFW also discerned that “guides assisted 240 residents (27%) and 1,343 non-residents (92%) with their successful hunts,” which truly exemplifies two things: hunting over bait is a fruitful technique, and Maine’s guiding community will be dealt a devastating blow should the proposed bear baiting restrictions come to pass. Black bear hunting in Maine infamously came under attack from the anti-sportsmen’s community in 2014 through the Maine Question 1 ballot referendum, which if implemented would have banned bear hunting using bait, traps, or dogs. MDIFW staunchly stood up for sportsmen and fought to oppose this proposal, assisting in the overall defeat of the initiative.
When guides are handcuffed with their ability to implement baits containing refined sugar, the majority of their options become limited. Without the use of an effective attractant, guides may experience lower success rates, which would foreseeably result in a loss of business. Placing unnecessary restrictions on the guiding community has the absolute likelihood of lowering success rates for bear hunters, resulting in fewer trips made into the State by nonresident license holders, and less conservation funding being generated through the American System of Conservation Funding for MDIFW to utilize in their management of the Pine Tree State’s wide variety of wildlife species and their habitats. A decrease in the harvest number would also undermine the state’s management and control of the black bear population, which poses the threat of increased human-wildlife conflicts.
The Congressional Sportsmen’s Foundation (CSF) has been engaged with the MDIFW on this issue and will be submitting a letter of opposition this week. The comment deadline for the proposed rulemaking is June 5, 2020. In order to submit testimony, please contact Becky Orff, Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, at email@example.com. CSF will continue to fight this proposal and will provide updates as they 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?