Maine Animal Rights Group Revives 10-Year-Old Bear Hunting Debate

Less than 10 years after Maine residents voted down a ballot initiative that would have abolished the use of dogs, baits, and traps for the hunting of black bears, an animal-advocacy group claiming the practices are cruel and unfair is hoping to rekindle the debate.

An article from the Kennebec Journal __says a coalition led by the Maine chapter of the Humane Society of the United States called Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting aims to collect around 80,000 signatures next month to place a referendum on the 2014 ballot, despite the fact a similar drive failed in 2004, 53 percent to 47 percent.

"This is a last resort (after trying several times without success in the Legislature). But with the additional 10 years of experience, we're confident we can win on the ballot," said Katie Hansberry, director of the Maine chapter of the Humane Society, in the article.

Proponents say the methods in question give hunters an unfair advantage over the animal and are inherently cruel. Opponents argue that outlawing the current practices would allow the state's bear population to grow relatively unchecked and increase bear-human conflicts.

Maine has one of the largest black bear populations in the lower 48 states, and while some states allow the use of dogs and bait to harvest bears, Maine is the only state that also allows traps.

In the article, Hansberry says the Human Society has been successful passing bear-hunting ballot measures in other states and plans to use those experiences to campaign in Maine. Efforts to ban one or more bear-hunting practices were successful in Colorado (1992), Oregon (1994) and Washington (1996), but failed in Michigan (1996) and Alaska (2004).