Maine Governor Comes Out Against Anti-Bear Hunting Initiative

In a talk to sportsmen, Maine Gov. John Baldacci expressed his opposition to a proposed initiative that would ban bear baiting, hunting bear with dogs, and bear trapping in that state.

With the help of the Humane Society of the United States and other animal rights groups, Maine Citizens for Fair Bear Hunting has been working to place such an initiative on the ballot in Maine. They have collected more than 100,000 signatures, virtually guaranteeing that it will be on the November 2004 ballot unless the state legislature adopts the initiative on its own first.

Baldacci, speaking at a meeting of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, said,

Groups, funded by out-of-state organizations committed to ending hunting, are backing a referendum that would make it illegal to hunt bear with dogs, to hunt bears with bait or to trap bears. They believe they know better than the state’s biologist and animal management professionals how Maine should manage our wildlife resources. They have gotten out early to tell their story to Maine voters. We need to tell our story.

HSUS maintains that baiting, trapping and hunting with dogs are not necessary. In a press release on the ballot initiative, it said,

The recreational hounding, baiting and trapping of bears is unnecessary. Most bear hunting states do not allow these unsporting methods, yet hunters in the states are able to hunt bears without them. Pennsylvania, for example, prohibits baiting, hounding and trapping bears, yet hunters there kill more than 2,000 black bears annually.

Recently, Massachusetts, Colorado, Oregon, and Washington approved similar ballot measures to ban cruel bear hunting practices. Statistics from these states prove that inhumane practices are not necessary to control bear populations, as hunters are able to kill the same number of bears without them.

The full text of the ballot initiative can be read here.

Sources:

Baldacci backs vote against bear-bait ban. Misty Edgecomb, Bangor Daily News, December 6, 2003.

Baldacci opposes bear referendum Says current hunting laws benefit biologists. Dwayne Rioux, Kennebec Journal and Morning Sentinel, December 6, 2003.

Maine: Initiative to Ban the Baiting, Hounding, and Trapping of Bears. Press Release, Humane Society of the United States, 2003.

Maine Anti-Bear Hunting Initiative

CITIZENS INITITIVE TO BAN UNSPORTSMANLIKE HUNTING OF MAINE BLACK BEARS

TITLE: AN ACT PROHIBITING CERTAIN BEAR HUNTING PRACTICES

QUESTION: 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?

SUMMARY: This initiated bill prohibits the use of bait to hunt or attract bear, the use of a dog to hunt or pursue bear and the use or setting of a trap to hunt or capture bear except under certain circumstances. The use of bait, a dog or a trap is permitted for certain scientific purposes or if undertaken by state or federal employees to kill or capture a specific animal that threatens livestock, domestic animals, threatened or endangered wildlife, property or public safety. Baiting is also permitted if used in conjunction with the operation of a feeding station for bear by owners or operators of commercial timberland or their employees in order to prevent damage to commercial timberland.

Be it enacted by the People of the State of Maine as follows:

PART A

Sec. A-1. 12 MRSA §7077, sub-§1-A, ¶F, as enacted by PL 1993, c. 136, §1, is amended to read:

F. Hunting or trapping bear after having killed one, exceeding the bag limit on bear or buying or selling bear in violation of section 7452, subsection 3, 4 or 9;

Sec. A-2. 12 MRSA §7077-A, sub-§6 is enacted to read:

6. Unsportsmanlike practices regarding hunting or trapping bear. A person convicted of a violation of section 7451, subsection 3-A; section 7452, subsection 1; or section 7452, subsection 2-A is not eligible to obtain any license issued by the department for 5 years from the date of conviction in the case of a first offense and permanently from the date of conviction in the case of a 2nd or subsequent offense. Any license in effect at the time of conviction is revoked upon conviction and must be immediately surrendered to the commissioner.

Sec. A-3. 12 MRSA §7104-A, sub-§§1 and 2, as enacted by PL 1993, c. 216, §1, are amended to read:

1. Gate fees. Gate fees or other access fees that are unrelated to the taking of game; or

2. Guiding fees. Fees charged by licensed guides or other fees that are unrelated to access to land; or.

Sec. A-4. 12 MRSA §7104-A, sub-§3, as enacted by PL 1993, c. 216, §1, is repealed.

Sec. A-5. 12 MRSA §7110, sub-§1, as repealed and replaced by PL 1989, c. 878, Pt. A, §34, is amended to read:

1. Permit required. A permit is required to hunt for bear from the first Monday preceding September 1st to the day preceding the open firearm season on deer November 30th. This section does not apply to trapping for bear.

Sec. A-6. 12 MRSA §7451, sub-§1, ¶A, as amended by PL 1993, c. 167, §1, is further amended to read:

A. There is an open season on hunting bear from the first Monday preceding September 1st to November 30th annually. The commissioner may, pursuant to section 7035, subsection 1, adopt rules prohibiting the use of bait to hunt black bear during any portion of the open bear hunting season.

Sec. A-7. 12 MRSA §7451, sub-§1, ¶B, as repealed and replaced by PL 1981, c. 224, §1, is repealed.

Sec. A-8. 12 MRSA §7451, sub-§1, ¶C, as amended by PL 1989, c. 493, §29, is repealed.

Sec. A-9. 12 MRSA §7451, sub-§1, ¶D, as amended by PL 1989, c. 913, Pt. A, §7, is further amended to read:

D. The commissioner may shorten the open seasons season on bear as established in paragraphs paragraph A, B and C in any part of the State provided that:

(1) The demarcation of the areas with a shortened season follows recognizable physical boundaries such as rivers and railroad rights-of-way; and

(2) The decision is made and published prior to February 1st of any year.

Sec. A-10. 12 MRSA §7451, sub-§1, ¶E, as enacted by PL 1981, c. 224, §1, is amended to read:

E. The commissioner may terminate the open season on bear as established in paragraph A, B and C at any time in any part of the State, if, in his the commissionerÂ’s opinion, an immediate emergency action is necessary due to adverse weather conditions or severe hunting or trapping pressure.

Sec. A-11. 12 MRSA §7451, sub-§3, as amended by PL 2003, c. 333, §11, is repealed.

Sec. A-12. 12 MRSA §7451, sub-§3-A is enacted to read:

3-A. Placing of bear bait prohibited. Bait, including, but not limited to, doughnuts and other pastries, grease, meat, fruits, vegetables, honey and any other food known to be attractive to bear, may not be used to hunt or attract bear. Such use of bait is unlawful unless:

A. The bait is used by state or federal employees, acting in their official capacity, to attract a specific offending animal for purposes of protecting livestock, domestic animals, threatened or endangered wildlife, public or private property or public safety;

B. The bait is used in conjunction with the operation of a feeding station for bear in order to prevent damage to commercial timberland, as long as the bait is used by owners or operators of that land, or their employees, pursuant to a permit granted by the department, but in no event for the purpose of killing bear; or

C. The bait is used by the department or pursuant to a permit granted by the department to an accredited university for scientific or research purposes, but in no event for the purpose of killing bear.

Sec. A-13. 12 MRSA §7452, sub-§1, as enacted by PL 1979, c. 420, §1, is repealed and the following enacted in its place:

1. Unlawfully hunting or pursuing bear with dogs; hounding. The following provisions govern hunting or pursuing bear with dogs, also known as hounding.

A. It is unlawful to use a dog or dogs to hunt or pursue bear, except as provided in paragraph B.

B. The use of a dog or dogs to hunt or pursue bear is lawful in the following circumstances:

(1) The dog or dogs are used by state or federal employees to pursue a specific offending animal when the employees, or their designees, are acting in their official capacity for purposes of protecting livestock, domestic animals, threatened or endangered wildlife, public or private property or public safety; or

(2) The dog or dogs are used by the department or pursuant to a permit granted by the department to an accredited university for scientific or research purposes, but in no event for the purpose of killing bear.

Sec. A-14. 12 MRSA §7452, sub-§1-A, as amended by PL 1989, c. 493, §30, is repealed.

Sec. A-15. 12 MRSA §7452, sub-§1-B, as enacted by PL 1987, c. 696, §10, is amended to read:

1-B. Illegal harvest of bear. A person is guilty of illegally harvesting bear if may not, without the permission of the person conducting the hunt, that person kills kill or wounds wound a bear that is treed or held at bay by another personÂ’s dog or dogs person.

Sec. A-16. 12 MRSA §7452, sub-§1-C, as enacted by PL 1989, c. 493, §31, is amended to read:

1-C. Illegal baiting of bear. A person is guilty of illegally baiting bear if that person places bear bait in any manner which that does not conform to section 7451, subsection 3 3-A.

Sec. A-17. 12 MRSA §7452, sub-§1-D, as enacted by PL 1989, c. 913, Part B, §7, is repealed.

Sec. A-18. 12 MRSA §7452, sub-§2, as amended by PL 1979, c. 543, §38, is repealed.

Sec. A-19. 12 MRSA §7452, sub-§2-A is enacted to read:

2-A. Unlawful hunting of bear with trap. The following provisions govern the hunting of bear with a trap.

A. It is unlawful to use or set a trap to hunt or capture bear, except as provided in paragraph B.

B. The use of a trap to hunt or capture bear is lawful in the following circumstances, provided any use of a trap pursuant to this paragraph is undertaken in the most humane manner practicable:

(1) The trap is used by state or federal employees, acting in their official capacity, to hunt or capture a specific offending animal for purposes of protecting livestock, domestic animals, threatened or endangered wildlife, public or private property or public safety; or

(2) The trap is used by the department or pursuant to a permit granted by the department to an accredited university for scientific or research purposes, but in no event for the purpose of killing bear.

Sec. A-20. 12 MRSA §7452, sub-§3, as enacted by PL 1979, c. 420, §1, is amended to read:

3. Hunting bear after having killed one. A person is guilty of hunting or trapping bear after having killed one if he that person hunts or traps bear after he has having killed or registered one during any open season.

Sec. A-21. 12 MRSA §7452, sub-§5, as amended by PL 2003, c. 333, §13, is further amended to read:

5. Hunting bear near dumps. The commissioner, or the commissionerÂ’s agent, shall establish a line of demarcation at least 500 yards from sites permitted or licensed for the disposal of solid waste. A person may not hunt, trap, molest or harass a bear or release dogs for the purpose of hunting bear within this area. The commissioner, or the commissionerÂ’s agent, is exempt from this prohibition for the purpose of live trapping nuisance bears pursuant to section 7452, subsection 2-A.

Sec. A-22. 12 MRSA §7452, sub-§15, ¶A, as amended by PL 2003, c. 331, §10, is repealed.

Sec. A-23. 12 MRSA §7458, sub-§15, ¶H, as enacted by PL 1993, c. 156, §2, is amended to read:

H. Subsection 9, paragraph B does not apply to hunting from an observation stand or blind overlooking:

(1) Standing crops;

(2) Foods that have been left as a result of normal agricultural operations or as a result of natural occurrence; or

(3) Bear bait that has been placed at a bear hunting stand or blind in accordance with section 7451, subsection 3 3-A.

Sec. A-24. 12 MRSA §7504, sub-§8, as amended by PL 1981, c. 563, §3, is amended to read:

8. Raccoons and bears.

A. The commissioner may suspend the game laws relating to raccoons and bears in such restricted localities and for such periods of time as he finds it advisable to relieve excessive damage being done by them to sweet corn or other crops. Nothing in this paragraph is intended to limit or create an exception to section 7451, subsection 3-A; section 7452, subsection 1; or section 7452, subsection 2-A.

B. The commissioner may suspend subsection 6 for the purpose only of allowing dogs to be used in hunting and killing raccoons and bears, providing the dogs are under the personal supervision of the owner at all times, for such periods of time as the commissioner finds it advisable.

Sec. A-25. 12 MRSA §7861, sub-§1, ¶C, as enacted by PL 1989, c. 913, Pt. A, §18, is repealed.

Sec. A-26. 12 MRSA §7901-A, sub-§6, ¶C, as repealed and replaced by PL 2003, c. 331, §36 and c. 333, §24, is amended by repealing and replacing subparagraph (1) to read:

(1) Hunting bear near a site permitted or licensed for the disposal of solid waste as described in section 7452, subsection 5;

Sec. A-27. 12 MRSA §7901-A, sub-§7, ¶C, as enacted by PL 2001, c. 421, Pt. B, §88 and affected by Pt. C, §1, is amended to read:

C. The following crimes are Class D crimes for which the court shall impose a sentencing alternative involving a term of imprisonment not to exceed 180 days; the court also shall impose a fine of not less than $1,000, none of which may be suspended:

(1) Hunting a bear during the closed season or possessing a bear taken during the closed season as described in section 7406, subsection 1;

(2) Hunting or trapping a bear after having killed one, as described in section 7452, subsection 3; and

(3) Exceeding the bag limit on bears as described in section 7452, subsection 4.

Sec. A-28. 12 MRSA §7901-A, sub-§7, ¶¶F and G are enacted to read:

F. In the case of a first offense, the following are unsportsmanlike practices that are Class D crimes:

(1) Unlawfully hunting or attracting bear using bait as described in section 7451, subsection 3-A;

(2) Unlawfully hunting or pursuing bear with dogs, also known as hounding, as described in section 7452, subsection 1; and

(3) Unlawfully hunting or capturing bear with a trap as described in section 7452, subsection 2-A.

G. In the case of a 2nd or subsequent offense, the following are unsportsmanlike practices that are Class C crimes:

(1) Unlawfully hunting or attracting bear using bait as described in section 7451, subsection 3-A;

(2) Unlawfully hunting or pursuing bear with dogs, also known as hounding, as described in section 7452, subsection 1; and

(3) Unlawfully hunting or capturing bear with a trap as described in section 7452, subsection 2-A.

PART B

Sec. B-1. 12 MRSA §10902, sub-§6, ¶E, as enacted by PL 2003, c. 414, Pt. A, §2 and affected by Pt. D, §7, is amended to read:

E. Buying or selling bear, or hunting or trapping bear after having killed one or exceeding the bag limit on bear, in violation of section 11217 or 11351;

Sec. B-2. 12 MRSA §10902, sub-§9 is enacted to read:

9. Mandatory hunting license revocation for unsportsmanlike practices regarding bear. The commissioner shall suspend a personÂ’s hunting license for at least 5 years if that person is convicted of:

A. Bear baiting in violation of section 11301-A;

B. Hounding in violation of section 11302-A; or

C. Illegal bear trapping in violation of section 12260-A.

If a person is convicted of any of the violations in paragraphs A to C for a 2nd or subsequent time, the commissioner shall revoke such personÂ’s hunting license permanently.

Sec. B-3. 12 MRSA §11151, sub-§1, as enacted by PL 2003, c. 414, Pt. A, §2 and affected by Pt. D, §7, is amended to read:

1. Permit required. Except as otherwise authorized pursuant to this Part, a person may not hunt for bear without a permit from the first Monday preceding September 1st to the day preceding the open firearm season on deer November 30th. This section does not apply to trapping for bear.

Each day a person violates this subsection that person commits a Class E crime for which a minimum of $50 and an amount equal to twice the applicable license fee must be imposed.

Sec. B-4. 12 MRSA §11218, as enacted by PL 2003, c. 414, Pt. A, §2 and affected by Pt. D, §7, is amended to read:

§11218. Game fees

A person may not charge any fee for access to land if the fee is contingent upon the taking of game on the land or directly related to the taking of game on the land unless the land is an authorized commercial shooting area licensed under section 12101. This section does not apply to:

1. Gate fees. Gate fees or other access fees that are unrelated to the taking of game; or

2. Guiding fees. Fees charged by licensed guides or other fees that are unrelated to access to land; or.

3. Fees for placing bear bait. Fees that are directly related to the placing of bear bait on land.

A person who violates this section commits a Class E crime.

Sec. B-5. 12 MRSA §11251, as enacted by PL 2003, c. 414, Pt. A, §2 and affected by Pt. D, §7, is amended to read:

§11251. Open and closed seasons

1. Open season on bear; commissionerÂ’s authority. This subsection governs the open and closed seasons on bear.

A. There is an open season on hunting bear from the first Monday preceding September 1st to November 30th annually. The commissioner may, pursuant to section 10104, subsection 1, adopt rules prohibiting the use of bait to hunt black bear during any portion of the open bear hunting season.

B. There is an open season on using a dog or dogs in conjunction with bear hunting from the first Monday preceding September 1st to the day preceding the open firearm season on deer provided in sections 11401 and 11402.

C. The commissioner may shorten the open seasons season on bear as established in paragraphs paragraph A and B in any part of the State as long as:

(1) The demarcation of the areas with a shortened season follows recognizable physical boundaries such as rivers and railroad rights-of-way; and

(2) The decision is made and published prior to February 1st of any year.

D. The commissioner may terminate the open season on bear as established in paragraphs paragraph A and B at any time in any part of the State if, in the commissionerÂ’s opinion, an immediate emergency action is necessary due to adverse weather conditions or severe hunting or trapping pressure.

Sec. B-6. 12 MRSA §§11301 and 11302, as enacted by PL 2003, c. 414, Pt. A, §2 and affected by Pt. D, §7, are repealed.

Sec. B-7. 12 MRSA §§11301-A and 11302-A are enacted to read:

§11301-A. Bear baiting

1. Prohibition. Bait, including, but not limited to, doughnuts and other pastries, grease, meat, fruits, vegetables, honey and any other food known to be attractive to bear, may not be used to hunt or attract bear, except as provided in subsection 2.

2. Exceptions. The use of bait to hunt or attract bear is lawful if:

A. The bait is used by state or federal employees, acting in their official capacity, to attract a specific offending animal for purposes of protecting livestock, domestic animals, threatened or endangered wildlife, public or private property or public safety;

B. The bait is used in conjunction with the operation of a feeding station for bear in order to prevent damage to commercial timberland, as long as the bait is used by owners or operators of that land, or their employees, pursuant to a permit granted by the department, but in no event for the purpose of killing bear; or

C. The bait is used by the department or pursuant to a permit granted by the department to an accredited university for scientific or research purposes, but in no event for the purpose of killing bear.

3. Penalty. A person who violates this section is guilty of the unsportsmanlike practice of bear baiting, which is a Class D crime for the first offense. A 2nd or subsequent offense is a Class C crime.

§11302-A. Unlawfully hunting or pursuing bear with dogs; hounding

1. Prohibition. It is unlawful to use a dog or dogs to hunt or pursue bear, also known as hounding, except as provided in subsection 2.

2. Exception. The use of a dog or dogs to hunt or pursue bear is lawful in the following circumstances:

A. The dog or dogs are used by state or federal employees to pursue a specific offending animal when the employees, or their designees, are acting in their official capacity for purposes of protecting livestock, domestic animals, threatened or endangered wildlife, public or private property or public safety; or

B. The dog or dogs are used by the department or pursuant to a permit granted by the department to an accredited university for scientific or research purposes, but in no event for the purpose of killing bear.

3. Penalty. A person who violates this section is guilty of the unsportsmanlike practice of hounding, which is a Class D crime for the first offense. A 2nd or subsequent offense is a Class C crime.

Sec. B-8. 12 MRSA §11303, sub-§2, as enacted by PL 2003, c. 414, Pt. A, §2 and affected by Pt. D, §7, is amended to read:

2. Prohibition. A person may not hunt, trap, molest or harass a bear or release dogs for the purpose of hunting bear within the area described in subsection 1. The commissioner, or the commissionerÂ’s agent, is exempt from this prohibition for the purpose of live-trapping nuisance bears pursuant to section 12260-A.

Sec. B-9. 12 MRSA §11304, as enacted by PL 2003, c. 414, Pt. A, §2 and affected by Pt. D, §7, is amended to read:

§11304. Permission to harvest another person’s bear

A person may not, without the permission of the person conducting the hunt, kill or wound a bear that is treed or held at bay by another personÂ’s dog or dogs person.

Sec. B-10. 12 MRSA §11351, sub-§1, as enacted by PL 2003, c. 414, Pt. A, §2 and affected by Pt. D, §7, is amended to read:

1. Hunting bear after having killed one. A person may not hunt or trap bear after that person has killed or registered one during any open season. A person who violates this subsection commits a Class D crime for which the court shall impose a sentencing alternative involving a term of imprisonment not to exceed 180 days; the court also shall impose a fine of not less than $1,000, none of which may be suspended.

Sec. B-11. 12 MRSA §12260, as enacted by PL 2003, c. 414, Pt. A, §2 and affected by Pt. D, §7, is repealed.

Sec. B-12. 12 MRSA §12260-A is enacted to read:

§12260-A. Illegal trapping of bear

1. Prohibition. It is unlawful to use or set a trap to hunt or capture bear, except as provided in subsection 2.

2. Exception. The use of a trap to hunt or capture bear is lawful in the following circumstances, provided any use of a trap pursuant to this subsection is undertaken in the most humane manner practicable:

A. The trap is used by state or federal employees, acting in their official capacity, to hunt or capture a specific offending animal for purposes of protecting livestock, domestic animals, threatened or endangered wildlife, public or private property or public safety; or

B. The trap is used by the department or pursuant to a permit granted by the department to an accredited university for scientific or research purposes, but in no event for the purpose of killing bear.

3. Penalty. A person who violates this section is guilty of the unsportsmanlike practice of illegal bear trapping, which is a Class D crime for the first offense. A 2nd or subsequent offense is a Class C crime.

Sec. B-13. 12 MRSA §12404, sub-§1, ¶C, as enacted by PL 2003, c. 414, Pt. A, §2 and affected by Pt. D, §7, is amended to read:

C. The commissioner may suspend the game laws relating to bears in such restricted localities and for such periods of time as the commissioner finds it advisable to relieve excessive damage being done by bears to sweet corn or other crops. Nothing in this paragraph is intended to limit or create an exception to sections 11301-A, 11302-A and 12260-A.

Sec. B-14. 12 MRSA §12404, sub-§1, ¶D, as enacted by PL 2003, c. 414, Pt. A, §2 and affected by Pt. D, §7, is repealed.

Sec. B-15. Contingent effective date. This Part takes effect only if the Maine Revised Statutes, Title 12, Part 13, as enacted by Public Law 2003, chapter 414, Part A, section 2, takes effect.

McGreevey Lied, Bears Died?

During Democrat James McGreevey’s successful run for the governorship of New Jersey, McGreevey said he supported a five-year moratorium on the hunting of bears. As governor, however, McGreevey did not attempt to interfere with the New Jersey Fish and Game Council to reinstate a bear hunt this year in order to control the population of bears in the state.

In the ensuing hunt, 328 bears were killed. Under New Jersey law, the governor does not have the ability to revoke or stop a hunt directly, but he could have used his political clout and influence to try to forestall the hunt if he had wanted to. Then-New Jersey Gov. Christie Todd Whitman did just that in 2000 to help stop a planned bear hunt.

Animal rights activist, not surprisingly, are angry with McGreevey for apparently changing his mind about whether a bear hunt was necessary and have ratcheted up the rhetoric against him. For example, a press release from the New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance and the Bear Education and Research Group said,

In an attempt to climb out of the dismal pit that is his approval ratings, Governor James E. McGreevey is unveiling a new slogan for the state of the state address: “Promises Made, Promises Kept.”

“Sounds nice”, states Stuart Chaifetz of NJARA, “but it’s as false as the promises he made. This is a man who promised not to allow bear hunting, and yet a mere month ago he allowed the slaughter of 328 bears.”

It is important to understand that this was not just a campaign promise, but a major reason why tens of thousands of people worked for his election and voted for him.

“He not only lied”, states Lynda Smith of the Bear Group, “he stole our votes. The reality is that since he lied to us about the bears, he’ll lie about anything.”

Since the Governor is looking for a new slogan, Here’s one that is at least honest: “McGreevey Lied, Bears Died.”

In December about 100 anti-bear hunt activists gathered at Wawayanda State and carried signs referring to McGreevey with language like “Adolf McGreevey” while chanting “Never Again!”

Source:

Promise – Broken. Governor McGreevey’s New Slogan Is Worst Form of Hypocrisy. Press Release, New Jersey Animal Rights Alliance/BEAR Group, January 2004.

Supporters Deliver Signatures for Bear Baiting Ban Initiative

On January 1, Citizens United Against Bear Baiting delivered more than the 33,500 signatures required to put a ban on bear baiting on the November 2004 Alaska ballot.

The proposed initiative would read,

“An act prohibiting the baiting or intentional feeding of bears.”

Be it enacted by the People of the State of Alaska:

Alaska Statutes Title 16 is amended to add a new Section 16.05.781, as follows:

16.05.781. Baiting or intentional feeding of bears prohibited.

(a) A person may not bait or intentionally feed a bear for the purpose of hunting, photographing, or viewing.

(b) Under this section, to “bait” or “intentionally feed” means to intentionally give, deposit, distribute, discard, scatter or otherwise expose any attractant or edible material in order to attract or entice a bear to enter into, or to remain in, a location or area.

(c) A person who violates this section is guilty of a Class A misdemeanor.

Currently Alaska permits the baiting of black bears but not of brown bears. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game argues that baiting of black bears is a legitimate wildlife management tools, especially in area where it is otherwise difficult to hunt bears due to thick vegetation. According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game about 500 of the 2,500 bears killed annually by hunters in Alaska are baited.

Arkansas, Idaho, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, New Hampshire, Utah, Wisconsin and Wyoming also allow bear baiting. Ballot initiatives have led to the banning of bear baiting in Colorado, Oregon and Washington state.

Opponents of bear baiting argue that it is unsportsmanlike, unsafe (since it might encourage bears to seek out food left behind by people), and inhumane. Proponents argue that baiting is a long standing tradition and is safer than other methods of hunting because hunters have a clear shot at the animals they are hunting.

Major national hunting and anti-hunting groups are likely to work to influence the outcome of the voting. The Humane Society of the United States’ Wayne Pacelle told the Anchorage Daily News,

We will certainly encourage our 13,000 Alaska members to become involved and vote yes on the initiative.

Pacelle added that HSUS would encourage “indigenous” fund raising to pass the initiative.

Meanwhile, Rob Sexton of the U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance told the Anchorage Daily News, “We’ll call on sportsmen everywhere to help support the vote-no effort” and added that the effort to fight the ballot initiative would likely cost several hundred thousands of dollars.

As far as the arguments go, I agree with the Sportsmen’s Alliance that whether or not bear baiting is allowed should depend on whether it is a sound wildlife management practice rather than on vague arguments about whether or not it is “unfair.” Craig Medred of the Anchorage Daily News did a nice job of pointing out the problems with the fairness argument in a column for that newspaper,

All of which brings us back to Alaska, where wildlife is nowhere near as bountiful as Outside, where fewer and fewer hunt for sport, and where the idea of fairness has been dragged a baffling distance from its origins and sensibilities.

Suddenly, people are arguing about what’s fair to individual wild animals — as if that somehow mattered.

Does someone out there truly believe a bear cares whether it gets shot at a bait station or splashing in a salmon stream or frolicking in a berry patch, or that a wolf cares that death comes in the form of a single bullet from a quiet marksman hidden 300 yards away or a hail of bullets from an airplane or the noose of a snare?

The means of death are irrelevant to these animals. They want only to survive, but they can’t.

Sooner or later, they’re destined to die, as are we, because the cycle of life is built on death. It’s inherently unfair and random. One calf gets picked to become a breeding bull and spend its life in pampered enjoyment. Another gets earmarked to be fattened up for shipment to the slaughterhouse.

That’s the way it has been since the days of the dinosaurs. The animals with fangs and claws and tools kill and consume the plant eaters.

Sources:

Bear baiting ban signatures delivered. MARY PEMBERTON
Associated Press, January 9, 2004.

Bear baiting opponents deliver signatures aplenty. Joel Gay, Anchorage Daily News, January 9, 2004.

Who ever said hunting was supposed to be fair? Craig Medred, Anchorage Daily News, January 25, 2004.

Alaska Lt. Governor Approves Initial Step in Initiative to Ban Bear Baiting

Alaska’s Lt. Governor Loren Leman approved the language of an initiative petition that, if successful, would ban bear baiting in that state.

Opponents of bear baiting argue that it is both unethical and potentially dangerous. Alaskan wilderness guide John Erickson told the Associated Press that the practice teaches bears to seek out human-supplied sources of food,

We are teaching them to eat garbage out in the woods. Once you get a bear in the dump, they are a garbage bear.

Black bears are the only species that Alaska allows hunters to bait, and close to 20 percent of the 2,500 bears killed annually in Alaska are black bears that are killed after having been baited. There are an estimated 100,000 black bears in Alaska.

The Humane Society of the United States argues that bear baiting is “unfair.” Wayne Pacelle told the Associated Press,

It’s not surprising wherever baiting occurs, it’s enormously controversial. It cannot
withstand public scrutiny, because it’s so unfair to the bear and because it causes obvious conflicts between bears and humans.

Supporters counter that it is no more unfair than using bird calls and decoys to attract birds or using baited hooks to catch fish. Or, as Alaska Daily News outdoor editor Craig Medred put it,

Yes, I know, some will say, “Well, gee, that doesn’t sound fair.”

It isn’t. Hunting isn’t fair. And it doesn’t matter whether the hunting is done by humans, wolves or, for that matter, bears. Predators are the animals with weapons, fangs and claws. The prey are the animals with the tasty flesh.

In the long-running and ongoing dance between predator and prey, individual predators are destined to win, and individual prey are destined to lose. The only thing that keeps the system going is the ability of the prey to — for lack of a better analogy — breed like rabbits.

This is the way nature works. There is nothing fair about it.

Supporters of the ban now must collect 23,286 in at least 27 election districts in order to place the initiative on the 2004 ballot.

Sources:

Baiting is traditional form of bear hunting. Craig Medred, Alaska Daily News, July 6, 2003.

Critics of bear baiting aim at voters. Mike Chambers, Associated Press, July 7, 2003.

Leman approves bear baiting initiative petition. Kenai Peninsula Online, June 20, 2003.

Alaskan Governor Signs Wolf Cull Bill

Apparently willing to risk the promised boycott from Friends of Animals, Alaska Gov. Frank Murkowski signed a bill in June that will allow private citizens to hunt wolves from airplanes.

The law also alters the rules that determine when the Alaska Department of Fish and Game can order a culling of the wolf population. Under the old rules, it could only do so if it found that there was a decline in the population of animals that wolves prey on. Under the new rules, the department can order a cull of wolves when their numbers grow regardless of the impact such growth is having on prey species.

The Department of Fish and Game will likely use the aerial hunts to thin the population of wolves near McGrath, where residents would like to see the moose population expand to provide more hunting and economic opportunities. The department already has a project underway to capture and remove bears from around McGrath.

Friends of Animals, meanwhile, apparently believes there are constitutional issues with the law and are holding off on calling for a boycott hoping that those issues will render the law moot,

FOA believes that there are legal problems with the new statute. Among other things, it appears that this statute violates the Alaska Constitution’s separation of powers rule by invading the legal authority of the Governor and the Commissioner of the Department of Fish and Game. We brought this problem to the attention of the Alaska Attorney General, and we expect that it be addressed before anyone tries to take any action under the statute. Aside from that constitutional infirmity, there are also some serious legal, administrative and fiscal impediments to implementation of the statute. FOA anticipates litigation if the Game Board tries to use this new statute to initiate wolf-killing. If wolf control is implemented, Friends of Animals will call for a tourism boycott of Alaska during the months of November 2003 through January 2004 — when tourists book summer visits to Alaska with tourist agencies. — Priscilla Feral

Sources:

Murkowski signs aerial wolf control bill. Associated Press, June 19, 2003.