AUGUSTA, Maine — The Humane Society of the United States is considering an initiative to ban bear hounding and trapping practices in Maine through a 2016 ballot referendum, according Wayne Pacelle, president of the group.
“We are taking a very serious look on a measure on trapping and hounding,” said Pacelle in a phone interview Wednesday evening.
This isn’t the first time the group has attempted to ban certain bear hunting practices in Maine. In November, Maine voters rejected the Humane Society-backed initiative to ban bear baiting, hounding and trapping (Question 1), 53.6 percent to 46.3 percent. An identical initiative was voted down by Maine voters in 2004.
“How many times are we going to have to debate this?” said U.S. Sportsmen’s Alliance President and CEO Nick Pinizzotto in a prepared statement. “They’ve lost before the legislature, they’ve lost at the ballot box, and they’ve lost in the courts.”
A lawyer representing the Humane Society, Rachel Wertheimer, reportedly announced the organization’s intent to back a 2016 initiative on Tuesday at a Maine Superior Court conference, according to James Cote, former campaign manager for the effort to block the ban.
However, Pacelle said that while a 2016 initiative concerning bear hunting is possible, no official decision has been made by the Humane Society at this time.
“I’ll confirm that if there is a ballot measure, it would most certainly focus on the hounding and the trapping,” said Pacelle. “And we hope that there would be no significant organized opposition of that since so many people expressed their concerns about those two methods.”
“I think we said right after the vote that we felt that there was an emerging consensus that bear trapping and hounding are unacceptable to the Maine electorate,” he continued. “We do oppose baiting, but it appears to have been the most divisive of the three elements on the 2014 ballot measure.”
The status conference, Cote said, was regarding the lawsuit the Humane Society of the United States filed against the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries for its involvement in the 2014 campaign against Question 1. During the conference, the Humane Society’s lawyer advised Justice Joyce Wheeler that the group intends to support an initiative on the 2016 ballot and will be filing the initial paperwork next month.
“For all intensive purposes, it was a very public statement,” Cote said. “It’s really disappointing. We had hundreds, if not thousands, of people break their backs and bank accounts to protect these programs in the last two years, and it looks like we’re going to play politics with this kind of wildlife management again.”
“We’ll organize,” he continued. “And should it come to fruition, we’ll be there to defend ourselves.”
Wertheimer and Wheeler were not immediately available for comment.