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Maine Bear Hunting Reform Narrowly Rejected by Voters

Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting expressed disappointment about the election results on Question 1, but thanked more than a quarter million Mainers who voted to end bear baiting, hounding, and trapping. It was the second time in 10 years that voters have narrowly rejected this set of reforms clustered into a single ballot initiative. Voters in Colorado, Massachusetts, Oregon and Washington have approved ballot measures to ban bear baiting and hounding (trapping had long been banned in all of these state, and that’s why initiatives in those states omitted that provision).

"Losing an election, with so many animals’ lives hanging in the balance, is a bitter pill to swallow,” said Katie Hansberry, campaign director for Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting and Maine state director for The Humane Society of the United States. “We are grateful to so many Maine voters for supporting this proposed reform, and we look forward to working with them and with ‘no’ and non-voters to outlaw the practices of bear hounding and trapping, because we believe there’s substantial agreement on that issue.”

Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting and The HSUS do not interpret the result as an affirmation of baiting, hounding and trapping.

“In the end, it was very difficult to overcome the active involvement and spending by the state, which caused so much confusion for voters despite Maine being the only state to rely on all these extreme hunting methods,” added Hansberry. “It was an unprecedented infusion of state resources into a political campaign that was based on fear and scare tactics.”

Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting will appeal a state superior court ruling that rejected our claims that the state’s involvement in the election was overreaching and illegal. “Whether in the courts or in the legislature, we’ll seek a redress of this problem – a problem that, like baiting, hounding, and trapping, appears unique to Maine,” added Hansberry. State personnel appeared in television advertisements to tell voters to oppose Question 1; they traveled around the state to rallies, fundraisers, debates and editorial board meetings; they used tax dollars to pay for a website and materials to oppose the citizen initiative; and they closely colluded with the private organizations leading the opposition campaign. Regardless of how people feel about bear baiting, all Mainers should be concerned about this overreach by government and misuse of power to influence elections.

Most major papers in the state either endorsed Question 1 or called on the state to ban bear hounding and trapping.

“We see an emerging consensus in the state to take action to stop bear hounding and trapping, and we’ll be immediately pressing that case in the state,” said Anita Coupe, an HSUS board member from Biddeford Pool.

For the time being, Maine will remain as the only state in the nation to allow baiting, hounding, and trapping.