Maine Legislators Propose Expanding Bear Hunting Opportunities

Published March 18, 2019

Legislators in Maine have proposed two bills that could expand black bear hunting in the state.

One bill would allow biologists with Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (DIFW) to adjust the length of bear hunting seasons and the number of bears hunters may harvest. A second bill would establish a regulated bear hunt in the spring. Both bills await hearings in the joint Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee.

Maine has the largest population of black bears on the East Coast, and the population is growing swiftly. The state’s bear population grew from approximately 23,000 in 2004 to more than 35,000 today.

Controlling Threat to Public

The Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine (SAM), the state’s largest hunting advocacy organization, supports efforts to expand hunting seasons, bag limits, and methods of harvest.

More flexible bear management is necessary to prevent bears from becoming a nuisance or a danger to the public, says former state senator David Trahan, SAM’s executive director.

“Hunters are not removing enough bears annually under current rules, which is resulting in significant population growth,” said Trahan. “We need to trust our biologists to manage bears in way that does not allow their population numbers to become a nuisance.

“For us, this means giving biologists all the tools they need to manage the bear populations, including adjusting lengths of seasons, the methods of harvesting bears—including baiting, hounding, and trapping—and the authority to expand the number of bears hunters are allowed to take on a management district by management district basis,” Trahan said. “This will allow biologists to better manage bear populations in districts with steep population growth.”

‘Wildly Successful’ Conservation Model

The bill to allow DIFW to modify bag limits, hunting seasons, and methods of harvest is designed to allow professional biologists to manage bear populations in a way that prevents them from damaging their habitats or becoming a nuisance to the public, says its sponsor, state Sen. Paul Davis (R-Sangerville), who serves on the Senate Inland Fisheries and Wildlife Committee.

“Maine has a large population of bears, and this bill is intended to give wildlife professionals a greater ability to control that population,” Davis told Environment & Climate News. “Increasing the bag limit and allowing expanded hunting opportunities can prevent bear populations from exploding and causing conflicts.”

Wildlife management policies should be based on the best available science, not politics, says Trahan.

“Professional management is the foundation of the wildly successful North American conservation model,” said Trahan. “Biological and ecological concerns, not politics, should dictate wildlife management.”

H. Sterling Burnett, Ph.D. ([email protected]) is a senior fellow at The Heartland Institute.

Official Connections

State Sen. Paul Davis (R-Sangerville):; [email protected]