Hunting bears with bait, dogs, traps, & loaded ballot language
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, October 2004:
JUNEAU, AUGUSTA–Alaska and Maine voters will decide on
November 2, 2004 whether to ban baiting bears into shooting range,
but as ANIMAL PEOPLE went to press the exact wording of the Alaska
ballot proposition remained in doubt.
Alaska Lieutenant Governor Loren Leman reworded descriptions
of the anti-bear baiting measure and two unrelated propositions after
they had already won enough petition signatures to qualify for the
ballot. The petition language was approved in June 2003 by Alaska
assistant attorney general Marjorie Vandor. Leman did not seek
approval of his rewrites from the organizations promoting the ballot
measures, and is known to oppose all three.
Half a million ballots were printed before Anchorage Superior
Court Judge Morgan Christen ruled on September 29 that Leman’s
rewrite of one proposition was illegal.
“Christen said that destroying the old ballots was the only
way to correct the misleading, biased, and factually inaccurate
working of the Trust the People initiative to strip the governor’s
authority to fill a vacated U.S. Senate seat by appointment,” wrote
Richard Mauer and Joel Gay of the Anchorage Daily News. Mauer and
Gay anticipated that Leman would appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court.
Citizens United Against Bear Baiting and Yes on 2, proposing
legal medicinal use of marijuana, asked that the language of their
propositions be corrected along with the language of the Trust the
People proposition. Leman refused, risking another lawsuit.
Citizens United Against Bear Baiting attorney Tom Meachum
argued that Leman’s wording could mislead voters into believing that
the ballot proposition would criminalize feeding birds, if the bird
food happened to attract a bear.
“The administration [of ardently pro-hunting Governor Frank
Murkowski] is obviously opposed to our position, and has acted
through Loren Leman to intentionally distort it, even though they
earlier agreed to language that was clear on the issue,” said Alaska
Wildlife Alliance executive director John Toppenberg.
Maine proposition struggles
The Maine ballot asks, “Do you want to make it a crime to
hunt bears with bait, traps or dogs, except to protect property,
public safety, or for research?”
In 2003, according to the Maine Department of Inland
Fisheries and Wildlife, 13,236 hunters tried to kill bears, and
about 3,900 succeeded. Eighty percent were shot over bait, 12% were
hunted with dogs, 3% were trapped, and just 5% were killed by
hunters using neither bait, dogs, nor traps. These hunters were
mostly deer hunters who also bought a bear license, then happened
across a bear during deer season.
A mid-September Zogby poll of 400 likely Maine voters
commissioned by the Portland Press Herald and Maine Sunday Telegram
found that 52% opposed the ballot measure, 35% favored it, and 14%
said they were undecided.
Though the Zogby findings were almost opposite to the 2001
and 2003 poll results that encouraged the Humane Society of the U.S.
to contribute more than $200,000 to help put the issue before the
voters, the anti-ban side showed no inclination to coast.
The Maine Fish and Wildlife Conservation Council on September
30 charged that banning bear hunting with bait, traps, or dogs
could cost the state 770 jobs during the next 10 years, with an
economic impact of $62.4 million. The data was produced by the Eaton
Peabody Consulting Group and University of Southern Maine professor
Charles Colgan, who interviewed 25 resident and 20 nonresident bear
hunters, plus 21 registered guides.
Colgan told Portland Press Herald writer Deirdre Fleming that bear
hunting in Maine in 2002 was worth $26 million, creating 319 jobs,
and that the Eaton Peabody study assumed that the number of bear
hunting permits sold would increase by 600 per year–an unlikely
prospect when hunting permit sales overall are declining.
However, Maine Citizens for Fair Bear Hunting founder Robert
Fisk told Fleming that a 1991 study by the University of Maine
Department of Agricultural and Resource Economics found that bear
hunting was worth just $6.4 million to Maine in 1988.
Thus bear hunting revenue in Maine has quadrupled during the
past 15 years.
The trend may differ from the overall trend in hunting
because the average age of U.S. hunters increased from 36 to 44
during the same time, and older hunters tend to be more interested
in pursuing trophy animals, such as bears, than in filling bag
limits of deer, waterfowl, and small game.
Earlier, Maine attorney general Steven Rowe ruled that Maine
state bear biologist Jennifer Vachon was within her rights to speak
against the bear baiting ban in a 20-second television commercial
aired by the Maine Fish and Wildlife Conservation Council.
“A fed bear is a dead bear”
Baiting bears also became a controversial issue in Wyoming
toward the end of the summer, after Fund for Animals representative
Andrea Lococo pointed out a basic conflict in the policies of the
Wyoming Game and Fish Department and the U.S. Forest Service.
Summarized Casper Star-Tribune environment reporter Whitney
Royster, “Game and Fish allows hunters to set baits for bears,” a
practice still legal in only nine of the 27 states with bear seasons,
“while the Forest Service works to get people to store food so as not
to attract bears.”
The Forest Service and other federal agencies use the slogan
“A fed bear is a dead bear” in trying to promote recognition that
allowing bears to develop a taste for human food often leads to
humans being killed or injured, and almost inevitably leads to
problem bears being shot.
The Wyoming controversy erupted while residents of Redstone,
Colorado mourned a bear named Kylie, a three-or-four-year-old male
with a mangled paw who had become more-or-less a community pet. On
September 3 Kylie was trapped and killed for allegedly breaking a
window in a four-year-old girl’s bedroom. Anglican priest John Hook
held a funeral for the bear.
Maryland & New Jersey
Disputes over bear hunting simmered as well in Maryland and New Jersey.
On September 27 the Fund for Animals, Humane Society of the
U.S., Fund employee Tracey McIntire as an individual Maryland
resident, and private citizens Barbara Dowell and David M. Stricker
jointly asked the Prince George Circuit Court to grant an injunction
that would halt the first bear season in Maryland since 1953,
pending resolution of a lawsuit seeking to stop the hunt entirely.
The season was to open on October 25, with a 30-bear quota. Two
hundred hunters would be chosen by lottery from among 1,600 permit
The Fund, HSUS, et al contend that the Maryland Department
of Natural Resources made “fundamental statistical errors and other
flaws in data collection” in 2000, when it reported that the state
bear population had increased from fewer than 12 in 1956 to more than
500; proposed the hunt before expiration of a public comment period;
missed the dead line for publishing bag limits; and missed the
deadline for publishing the season dates.
In New Jersey, keeping a promise made in 2003 after the
first bear hunt in that state since 1970, Department of
Environmental Protection commissioner Bradley Campbell refused to
issue permits for a second bear hunt, authorized by the New Jersey
Fish and Game Council.
The Fish and Game Council contends that there are about 3,000
bears in New Jersey. Campbell accepted the Fish and Game Council
estimate in 2003, against the advice of bear hunting opponents, but
now supports other data that puts the bear population at about 1,500.
Campbell changed his mind about the validity of the Fish and Game
Council data when among 328 bears killed in 2003, two-thirds were
females, rather than the allegedly problematic young males who were
said to be overabundant.
U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance vice president for governmental
affairs Rob Sexton told Philadelphia Inquirer reporter Kaitlin Gurney
that his organization “is readying legal documents for a fight.”