It took three avid bear baiting proponents to compose the opinion that appeared on the BDN OpEd page Dec. 4.
It’s a curious piece, the writers both crowing over the defeat of Question 1 yet anxiously anticipating that this may not be the last say on the matter. And it isn’t. The baiting, trapping and hounding of Maine’s bears in the name of sport and species control cannot stand and will be banned eventually. These are abhorrent, unfair practices opposed by ethical hunters and an informed and humane public and already banned in states with healthy bear populations and lots of hunters such as Montana, Colorado, Oregon and California as well as the eastern states of New York and Pennsylvania.
The opinion by Don Kleiner, David Trahan and James Cote repeated the same falsehoods and innuendoes perpetuated throughout the campaign. The outside, “anti-hunting interest group in Washington, D.C.,” that organized the Yes on 1 referendum campaign is the The Humane Society of the United States, a national organization with millions of members. They are not and never have been an anti-hunting organization. Nor was Question 1 an anti-hunting measure. It merely sought to ban certain cruel and ugly methods of taking bears.
Baiting and trapping interests never refer specifically to HSUS — it’s always a Washington-based anti-hunting interest group. There must be something about the word “humane” that they find distasteful.
The writers accused “yes” proponents of injecting politics into the referendum. Oh dear. They found the monetary support of HSUS “unprecedented,” something that “should be alarming for any Maine voter.” What was alarming was the fact that employees of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife campaigned against “yes,” often appearing in uniform in slickly produced videos. These are public employees, paid with everyone’s tax dollars, and their advocacy in this instance should be at odds with Maine’s governmental and election practices. It’s IF&W that seems to be representing special interests.
The argument, expressed ad nauseum, that baiting is a “scientific” method of controlling the bear population is absurd. What’s “scientific” about putting out barrels of garbage — donuts, pizza and candy laced with restaurant grease — to lure bears to specific sites where they can be shot at close range? Science has nothing to do with such a sloppy management “tool.” It might as well be argued that garbage enhances the wilderness experience, or that shooting a baited bear involves the precision and beauty of Euclidian geometry.
Baiting as a fine scientific management method endorsed by objective biologists is a myth just as the “you can’t hunt bears if you don’t bait them” myth or “the woods are too thick” myth or the “feeding bears garbage doesn’t habituate them to garbage” myth. (Only “professionals” get to feed the bears, though. You and I would be irresponsible if we didn’t secure our trash cans.)
Perhaps some day IF&W will publish an actual study on baiting’s effect on bears, other wildlife, the integrity of wild lands and public safety. Such a study has not yet appeared, which is curious if the touted science is so unimpeachable. But of course the science doesn’t exist.
What does exist is considerable public unease with these unfair hunting practices. Eventually, baiting, trapping and hounding will be outlawed in the state of Maine, and Kleiner, Trahan and Cote will just have to live with it and learn to endorse and promote ethical and fair chase hunting.
Joy Hills is a Belfast resident and long-time member of the Humane Society of the United States.