Yesterday, voters in Maine solidly defeated a ballot referendum that would have virtually eliminated the state’s ability to manage the bear population.
The referendum, known as Maine Question 1, would have banned hunting with bait, hounds, and trapping as management tools for controlling the state’s bear population. Hundreds of businesses and thousands of jobs rely on bear hunting in this heavily forested state, where any other type of bear hunting would be fruitless. As it is, with the use of hounds, baits, and cable restrain traps, success rates for bear hunters runs about 30 percent.
The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the nation’s largest animal rights activist organization, bankrolled the effort by setting up a group called Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting which gathered more than 70,000 signatures to put the issue on the ballot.
The state was bombarded with negative ads in every kind of media portraying the hunting methods as cruel, unneeded, and bad for bears. It is estimated that the Washington, DC-based HSUS spent between two and three million dollars on the failed effort. The ban went down to defeat by a margin of 52.3 to 47.7 percent.
Randy Cross, biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (IFW) and nationally noted bear expert, said this was a big victory for wildlife management everywhere. “This was a win for science over emotion,” he said. “The facts were on our side but the facts were muffled by so much static and distortion. They challenged everything we said. It was a very difficult battle to get the truth across.”