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Sunday, 23 September 2018

Facts Supporting a Ban on Hound Hunting of Bears
Written by Robert Fisk   
Wednesday, 28 December 2005
Hound hunting is unsporting. Finding a terrorized bear treed by a pack of hounds and shooting it at point blank range is unsporting, makes a mockery of the term fair chase  and demeans all hunting.   The dictionary defines “hunt” as 1. “to pursue (game or wild animals) for food or sport” or 2. “to seek out, to search for”. Pursuit, the actual chase, precedes the kill, without it hunting is merely killing. Hunting without restrictions on how we pursue game loses it meaning. A hunter earns the privilege to take an animal’s life by mastering the skills of the hunt. In hounding the only hunter is the dogs.

Hound hunting is inhumane.  If hounds overcome a bear that turns to face them the mauling of the animal can be merciless and protracted. Hounds can be injured, crippled or killed in bear fights. Bears shot from trees may suffer broken bones from the fall and may endure brutal dog attacks until the fatal shot is delivered.  Bear cubs can also be maimed or killed by hounds or permanently separated from its mother to eventually die of starvation, exposure or predation.

Hound hunting is unnecessary. Of the 27 states that allow bear hunting, 23 prohibit hounding, yet hunters in these states are able to take their bear without the use of dogs. Fair chase hunting has increased significantly in those states. In recent years, voters have overwhelming approved citizen initiatives to ban hound hunting in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington, states similar to Maine in forest density and bear populations.  

Hound hunting is not a tradition. Running a bear with dogs began in Maine less than 25 years ago. In 1982 only 152 bears were taken by hound hunting. The practice was driven by a few bear guides purely as a financial endeavor.

Hound hunting has gone high-tech.  Today’s hound hunter uses radio telemetry and CB radios, along with packs of trained dogs. Usually fitted with telemetry collars, the dogs can be easily monitored from a distance as they chase and eventually tree the bear. Hunters in vehicles track the dogs’ progress, coordinate efforts via CB radios, and then go in for the kill at close range once the dogs have trapped their prey.

Hound hunting is not needed for bear management.
There is considerable doubt as to whether managing bear populations is needed at all, but even given the Department of IF&W’s contention that bear management is necessary, hounding represents about 12% of the animals taken each year, and therefore cannot be used as bear management issue.  

Hound hunting is highly stressful to wildlife.  Bear chases may last from 10 minutes to a day or longer and cover many miles. Long chases can severely stress bears, cause overheating and potential brain damage. During chases, mother and young may become permanently separated and the cubs may succumb to starvation, exposure and predation. Treed bears are terrified by the baying hounds at the tree base.

Hound hunting leads to trespassing and property damage.  The hounding of any animal can take an unpredictable course causing the wild animal, the dogs and the hunters to become a nuisance or a threat to public and private lands. Hounds will also chase, harass, injure and kill other wildlife and domestic animals.

Hound hunting has little economic value. Hound hunting is done by a relatively small number of guides. Given the nature of the practice it limits the number of opportunities a guide can provide the service. A ban on hound hunting of bear would have no meaningful financial impact on guides, ancillary businesses or the State. Guides in other states have significantly increased fair chase hunting, which Maine guides can do as well.

Hound hunting is cruel to the dogs.
  If a bear turns to fight dogs can be maimed, crippled, brutally mauled or killed. Dogs can be severely punished for chasing non-target animals such as deer. A nearly 50-year former Maine guide, trapper and bear hunter reported: “I’ve seen hunters beat their dogs so badly that it made me 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.”

Hound hunting gives hunting a bad image.  Hounds give relentless chase until the frightened and exhausted bear climbs a tree in a vein attempt to escape. Hounds are fitted with high tech telemetry collars that allows the hunter to find the treed bear and then shoot it with a gun or bow and arrow at close range. This unethical method of killing is not a practice true hunters want to be associated with and it is a practice that gives all hunting a bad image. 
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