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Monday, 23 October 2017

Bear Hunting In Today’s Maine Is A Very Ugly Activity - Lewiston Sun Journal Op-Ed July 11, 2004
Written by Robert Fisk, Jr.   
Tuesday, 05 April 2005
Mainers have a reputation of being knowledgeable voters and independent thinkers. By Election Day in November, we believe most Maine voters will be well-informed as to the issues involved in the referendum to end the hunting of Maine’s black bears with the use of bait, hounds and traps, which are inhumane, unsportsmanlike and unnecessary.  We firmly believe that the more the public understands the issues surrounding these methods of hunting, the more they will see that this is bad public policy and not the hunting image Maine wants. In any discussion of the bear referendum one issue that cannot be left unsaid is the cruelty involved in these practices, which most Mainers have no idea of. Unfortunately, those in opposition to the ban, including the Maine’s Department of IF&W, never consider the inhumane component in their overall assessment of a wildlife issue. Opponents espouse that nature is cruel, so why the fuss over how the animal suffers or dies. Nature may be harsh and unforgiving, but cruelty is a human construct.  This is not an anti-hunting referendum. It is about these three specific hunting practices that represent needless animal suffering. Consider the following:

Back shooting a bear from a tree stand when its head is in a garbage pail would seem to potentially be a quick, clean kill.  But the fact is an honest bear guide knows that they are most often (80%) serving non-resident weekend warriors (some have described as “bottom of the barrel”) trophy hunters that may be anything but good shots.  Wounded bears are often not tracked down and die a slow and painful death in the woods.

One long time former bear guide personally told me he saw a baited bear hit in the spine with an arrow.  A couple of months later he saw the same bear paralyzed from the waist down.  Its legs had become like leather from dragging itself around.  Anyone who has seen a bear shot with a bow and arrow knows that the animal often screams in pain when hit and seldom dies a quick death.

Of those bears killed over bait last year in Maine, 258 were cubs less a year old, often called “eighteen pounders”.

Chasing a bear with a pack of hounds with radar collars is more gruesome, particularly when an exhausted bear turns and fights. The dogs can be maimed, crippled or killed.  If the hounds overcome the bear the mauling of the animal can be merciless and protracted.     
Cubs sometimes are maimed by dogs or permanently separated from their mother and many eventually die of starvation, exposure or predation.

One well-known former Maine guide and member of Hunters for Fair Bear Hunting reported: “The hunter I had shot two females and a little cub one night.  He left one of the females in the woods just like he did with the little dead cub. The other cubs remained with their dead sister crying as we both walked away.”

Hounding is very stressful to a chased bear that often trees itself. Terrified as the hounds relentlessly bark at the base of the tree, the bear can only wait to be found by the hunter and shot at point blank range, sometimes with the dogs tearing at the  wounded or lifeless animal after it falls to the ground.

Then there is issue of the true hunters, the dogs.  A nearly 50-year former Maine guide, trapper and bear hunter, Bill Randall wrote us about what can happen if the hounds chase other animals instead of a bear, “I’ve seen hunters beat their dogs so badly that it made be cringe. I used to have friends who I would not go hunting with because they were so cruel to their dogs.  I’ve seen hounds kicked so hard or beaten with a stiff club that ribs were broken.”

Guides will use live bears to train bear dogs. Bears are run to death or mauled to death so that the dogs can experience the chase and kill.

Perhaps most cruel of the three practices is the suffering and agonizing death in a leghold trap that is often used with bait.  One woman wrote us that she was kept awake all night by a bear howling and suffering in a trap. Maine is the only state in the country that still allows this abhorrent method of hunting bears.

An article in the Jan/Feb. 2003 issue of American Trapper has a story of a father who took his son to Maine to teach him how to trap bears by using bait piles. He writes how they returned to the baited site where a bear was in a trap and the boy found a tree branch to rest his gun to shoot the animal.  One can only imagine how many shots it takes for an eight year old to kill a terrified bear frantically trying to remove itself from a trap.

Bear hunting in today’s Maine is a very ugly activity.  Over and above being unfair, unnecessary and unsportsmanlike, it is needless animal cruelty and suffering that must end.

For more information on Maine Citizens for Fair Bear Hunting call 781-5155 or visit their web site at www.fairbearhunting.org.
 
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