This was found in the Bangor Daily News. Following the editorial, I have including one particular comment left by a reader.
Followed by a comment from Bill Randall of Winthrop.As predicted when a referendum to ban bear baiting and trapping failed at the polls two years ago, the debate over how bears are killed is heating up again in Augusta. Lawmakers will face bills that range from banning trapping to ensuring no further limits are placed on trapping. As they consider these proposals, lawmakers must consider the biological effects of trapping along with the public’s standards for acceptable hunting practices to strike a balance.
In 2004, when Maine voters faced a referendum to ban bear baiting, trapping and pursuit with dogs, many biologists and hunters said the measure would have passed if it sought only to outlaw trapping because many people think this is the most egregious way to capture and kill a bear. In a poll conducted in 1992 by The Maine Sportsman, a Yarmouth-based magazine, seven out of 10 respondents disapproved of trapping. The numbers would likely be even more lopsided among the general public.
Last month, the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife proposed a modest rule change to outlaw foothold traps because they are not particularly effective and new technologies work better, says Ken Elowe, IF&W’s director of resource management. The rule change would also restrict hunters to only one trap, rather than the two currently allowed, so they don’t exceed the one bear per year limit. While these are positive steps that were begrudgingly accepted by sportsmen at an IF&W Advisory Council meeting last week, it is reasonable to ask if they are enough.
Trapping has no ecological impact on the state’s bear population, according to Mr. Elowe. In 2005, nearly 3,000 bears were killed during the fall season, well below the five-year average of about 3,800. Of those, 130 were trapped and about 300 were taken by hunters using dogs, but the vast majority — more than 2,200 animals — were shot over bait, according to the department’s statistics.
These numbers show that trapping, whether using foothold, cable or cage traps, while not detrimental, is not integral to the state’s bear management plans.
Maine is the only state in the country to allow bear trapping putting the state outside the hunting mainstream, something that should be of concern to those who hope to draw new visitors and residents here.
IF&W has proposed rule changes based on biological information. It is now up to the Legislature to consider society’s concerns about trapping and decide whether further restrictions are warranted. Given its biological irrelevance and the public distaste for it, it is extremely difficult to justify allowing a continuation of bear trapping.
[FONT=Verdana,]Bill Randall, Winthrop, ME, - 02/01/07
You are correct in all you write. The hobby trapping of bear by the general public has nothing whatsoever to do with bear management or science. Traps and snares are inherently cruel and archaic devices. A bear is a very intelligent animal and it fights the trap like no other animal I know. And I should know since I have either trapped or been involved in the trapping of about 50 bears. I've seen broken legs, broken shoulders, feet chewed off, and even a bears foot left in my trap. I've even seen the hound hunters harass the trapped bears with their dogs. One bear hunter even brags about shooting the lower jaws with a .45 caliber pistol so the trapped bear couldn't bite his young hounds. The general public has no idea of what really goes on out there among the bear hunting and trapping crowd. Using me as their spokesperson in 1980, the public should know that IF&W wildlife biologists advocated for no more trapping of bear in Maine. This happened when IF&W changed the bear's status from a furbearer to a big game animal. The only opposition to ending the trapping of bear at the time was the Maine Trappers Association's representative. All other hunting groups including the Maine Professional Guide's Association were in favor of ending bear trapping. What IF&W is currently advocating (one snare per trapper and the elimination of the rarely used steel-jawed trap) is tokenism at best. And part of the problem is the personal views of IF&W's head wildlife biologist Ken Elowe. When it comes to the treatment of wild animals, he is as hard hearted as anyone I've ever known. Elowe has no problem with noosing coyotes and seeing them hang by their necks for hours and days before they succumb from the blood exploding in their brains or when a trapper bangs them in the head. Perhaps it's time that we stuck Mr. Elowe's hand in a bear trap. Finally, the readers should not forget that nearly half of Maine's citizens recently voted in a referendum to abolish not only trapping but also the baiting and hounding of bear. Had the referendum only been to abolish the trapping of bear, the polls showed that over 90% of Maine citizens were in favor of it.[/FONT]