Maine bear hunters
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Maine Hunters Hoping to Reestablish Spring Bear Hunting Season

Bear hunters in Maine are hoping to bring back their spring hunt, but will face opposition from animal rights groups.

Maine bear hunters will have something to smile about should a bill to reestablish a spring black bear season pass in the legislature. HP 262 (Legislative Document 337) seeks to allow the Commissioner of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to establish a spring bear hunting season.

The bill is sponsored by Republican Rep. Peter Lyford and co-sponsored by six Republican representatives.

Sportsmen's Alliance of Maine authored another bill that would give the state the ability to adjust the length of the bear hunting season and the number of animals a hunter can kill per year.

Animal rights groups will once again strongly oppose both of these measures. In 2004, various anti-hunting groups proposed legislation that would have prohibited bear hunting with bait sites or dogs. They financed their effort largely from out-of-state anti-hunting groups like the Humane Society of the United States and the Fund for Animals. 

The next referendum occurred in 2014, with many of the same players and same results. Both times—in 2004 and 2014—voters defeated the anti-hunting proposals. But it was a tough, hard-won fight. The pro-bear hunting side was a mostly grass-roots effort, led by groups such as the Sportsman Alliance of Maine, Maine Professional Guides Association and Maine Trappers Association.

These bills being introduced this year will undoubtedly face the same hurdles as they did previously. Bottom line, big-game hunting is continually under attack. All outdoorsmen and women must be ever-vigilant and constantly involved in defeating anti-hunting forces.

Too many bears

Maine's bear population currently hovers around 35,000 animals. It was only 23,000 animals just 15 years ago. 

"Right now, they are not taking enough bears," David Trahan, president of Sportsmen's Alliance of Maine, told the Bristol Herald Courier. "They have not taken enough bears to slow the growth of the bear population. All we're saying is, we'll have the ability to adjust it based on the best research."

State Sen. Paul Davis sponsored the bill that would give the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife the ability to adjust the bear hunt. Davis said his bill will put control of the bear season into the hands of actual bear biologists and scientists.

"The idea is to turn it over to the people who study this all the time," Davis said. "We pay these people big money to run the bear season."

UPDATE: There is a hearing scheduled for the spring bear hunting bill. The meeting will take place on 9 a.m. Monday, Feb. 11 in the Burton Cross Building, Room 206, 210 State Street, Augusta, Maine 04333.

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