November 21, 2018
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Biologists expect busy bait sites as Maine bear hunting season begins

Ashley L. Conti | BDN
Ashley L. Conti | BDN
Matthew Cornman (left) looks over the bear he shot with Eagle Mountain Guide Service's Matt Whitegiver in the woods of Township 24 in this 2016 file photo.

Maine hunters heading into the woods today on the opening day of bear season will be battling warm temperatures, but that shouldn’t hamper their efforts to harvest an animal, according to a wildlife biologist who has been studying the animals for more than 30 years.

“I don’t think the heat will cause problems for first-week bear hunters,” said Randy Cross, the state’s bear crew leader for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. “Excessive wind would be a bigger problem, especially combined with heavy rain such as what we sometimes get this time of year on the tail end of a hurricane.”

Temperatures in Bangor approached the 90s during the first half of the week, as hunters get their first shot at bears this year. Youth Bear Day was Saturday, and Monday marked the first day for hunters hunting over bait and for general (nonbait) hunting. The last day of bait hunting is Sept. 22. The season for hunting with dogs runs from Sept. 10 through Oct. 26, while the general season without bait or dogs ends Nov. 24.

Cross said hot days may play a role, however.

“Heat during the day should reduce foraging activity on natural foods during the day — daytime foraging during cool weather can cause bears to wander farther away from bait sites with a full belly,” Cross said.

But as the sun drops and the end of the hunting day arrives, hunters should expect to have a few visitors at the bait sites.

“There should be lots of activity at the bait sites during early evening as bears start moving on an empty stomach,” Cross said. “Continued activity on bait sites after dark, especially with the moon being just past full, might offer some opportunities in the early morning hours as well.”

Over the past two years, hunters have averaged about 2,900 bears per season, with approximately 25 percent of bear hunters successfully filling their tags, according to the DIF&W.

Biologists have said they’d like to remove about 3,500 bears from the population each year so that the size of the state’s bear herd doesn’t continue to increase. Since 1985, the number of bears in Maine is thought to have doubled.

Cross said hunters should be conscious of the heat and should plan accordingly. Step one: Be prepared to cool a harvested bear down immediately.

“Getting harvested bears out quickly, skinned and in a cooler, will be of increased importance to save the meat from spoilage which, contrary to the belief of many who haven’t experienced well-handled bear meat, is excellent table fare,” Cross said. “Youth hunters had an excellent day of hunting on Saturday and I expect many hunters will have good luck [Monday].”

If you have a bear hunting story or photos to share, send them along to us at jholyoke@bangordailynews.com.

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