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The HSUS Applauds Defeat of Maine Bill to Allow Spring Bear Hunting

The Humane Society of the United States

The Humane Society of the United States applauded the Maine legislature for defeating L.D. 241 — a bill to allow the hunting of black bears in the spring. The practice consistently results in the orphaning and death of dependent cubs in states where it is legal.

"Hunting bears in the spring is a particularly cruel practice because nursing mother bears are killed, leaving their cubs to starve to death or be killed by predators," said Katie Lisnik, Maine state director for The HSUS. "Allowing the trophy hunting of black bears in the spring would have without a doubt resulted in the death of countless cubs only a few months old."

It is impossible for hunters to determine whether most bears are male or female, and even more difficult to determine whether a female bear is lactating and has nursing cubs. A mother bear will often leave her cubs in the safety of a tree while she forages more than a mile away, and a hunter has no way of knowing whether the bear in his sights has cubs waiting nearby.

During the spring, bear cubs' mouths are equipped only for nursing and they cannot digest solid food. The cubs cannot survive if their mother is killed and cannot nurse her cubs.

Lynn Rogers, Ph.D., a retired research biologist for the U.S. Forest Service, has stated that "when a mother is killed in the spring, her cubs begin a slow death. At first, the cubs wait quietly for her in the safety of a tree. As the pain of hunger grows in their bellies, they begin to squall for her. Eventually, they are killed by a predator or die slowly of starvation." 


  • Most bear cubs are born in January or February. In April or May, when bears typically leave their dens, cubs weigh between four and 10 pounds and rely exclusively on their mothers for sustenance and protection. Young bears are not weaned until July through September, long after a spring bear hunt would have ended.
  • Hunters cannot identify lactating bears. Data from Colorado indicate that even though it was illegal in the state to kill nursing female bears during the spring hunting season, and hunters claimed they could determine which bears were nursing cubs, lactating females comprised approximately the same proportion in the spring kill that they did in the population, showing no effective selection by hunters.
  • Trophy hunting is not an effective means of reducing bear-human conflicts and fails to target the so-called "problem" bears who may break into trashcans or trespass near homes.
  • Hunters already kill nearly 3,000 bears each year in Maine – more than 10 percent of the bears killed nationwide – and hardly need an additional season in which to hunt them.
  • Hunters in Maine are already permitted to kill bears using packs of radio-collared dogs, by baiting them with piles of garbage and by trapping them.
  • Tom Beck, a Colorado bear biologist, has stated that "spring bear seasons, no matter how carefully designed, do result in the orphaning of some dependent cubs. Starvation or predation is their fate."
  • Dr. George Kolenosky, an Ontario Ministry of Natural Resources biologist in Canada, studied seven cubs who had been orphaned between May 24 and June 4, all of whom starved to death over the next 11 to 30 days. During their last day of life, "the cubs lay on the ground unable to get up when a person approached."

The HSUS works to stop wildlife abuse across the country. Visit humanesociety.org/wildlifeabuse for more information.


The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.

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