A bill that would establish a spring bear hunt in Maine failed to generate support in a legislative work session Monday, and the joint standing committee on inland fisheries and wildlife unanimously voted it “ought not to pass.”
The bill, LD 337, would have allowed spring bear hunting across Maine for the first time in nearly 40 years. Some Native American hunts have been allowed on tribal lands during that span, however.
The committee voted 9-0, with four members absent, against the bill. Among those who testified against the bill during an earlier hearing was Al Cowperthwaite, the executive director of North Maine Woods Inc. Cowperthwaite cited more than 20 landowners who were against the bill.
“As most of you know, in rural Maine, the spring season is referred to as ‘mud season,’” Cowperthwaite said in his written testimony. “This is the time of year when forest operations cease due to the negative impact vehicles and other machinery have on forest roads.”
North Maine Woods Inc. landowners hold 3.5 million acres of private forestland in some of the state’s most popular bear hunting areas. NMW oversees the placement of more than 2,500 bait sites in that acreage, according to Cowperthwaite.
Don Kleiner, executive director of the Maine Professional Guides Association, was also among those to offer testimony against the bill. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife also testified against a spring hunt.
The DIF&W has said that in order to stabilize the state’s growing bear population, more bears must be taken by hunters each year. Alternatives to a spring hunt could include allowing hunters to take more than one bear in the fall, or lengthening that fall hunting season.
Other reasons cited for opposition to a spring hunt: Maine already has a 13-week season in the fall; bears are coming out of their dens in the spring and mothers are providing for cubs, so any female bears taken may lead to the death of cubs as well; and a general opposition to hunting bears over bait.