Franklin Countys First News

Politics & Other Mistakes: Bear with me

Al Diamon

Al Diamon

It’s the fall of 2015. A bear walks into a doughnut shop in Portland and says, “Give me two dozen assorted to go.”

“Sorry,” says the bakery’s proprietor. “Ever since that referendum backed by the Humane Society of the United States passed last year, it’s been illegal to feed doughnuts to bears. It’s really cutting into my business.”

“I understand,” replies the bear. “It’s not your fault voters made such a shortsighted decision. Unfortunately, though, you’ll have to – forgive the pun – bear the consequences.”

Whereupon, the beast leaps the counter, mauls the baker and trashes his store.

This incident of pastry-related hooliganism is fictional. You should have guessed that when the bear started talking. But if you’re dumb enough to think banning all the most common methods of bear hunting in Maine will be good for wildlife management and the economy, you’re also so clueless that you didn’t know bears can’t speak English. Most of this state’s bruins would have ordered those doughnuts in French.

Your ignorance doesn’t end there. You’ve likely bought into the Humane Society’s claim that the referendum on the November ballot is only concerned with what Katie Hansberry, campaign manager for Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, referred to in the Bangor Daily News as “our beloved, majestic bears.”

It isn’t. The money being spent ought to tell you there’s more at stake here than whether it remains legal to lure bears to their deaths by dumping stale doughnuts in the woods.

According to campaign finance reports, the Humane Society has already spent close to $900,000 to promote the bear-hunting ban and will be dumping, not doughnuts, but more big bucks in the coming weeks in an effort to lure you into its trap.

“Why are they spending so much money to do this?” James Cote, the campaign manager for the Maine Wildlife Conservation Council, asked somewhat rhetorically. “They dress it up that they’re not after all hunting, but it’s pretty clear they don’t like hunting, period.”

Unfortunately for Cote and this state’s long tradition of thoughtful management of our natural resources, the decision on whether to preserve the bear hunt – and thwart future efforts by the Humane Society to go after other types of hunting – will be made by voters in southern Maine, who won’t have to suffer the consequences of casting ballots based on emotion rather than fact.

At least not until that Sunday morning when they find Yogi and Boo Boo in line ahead of them at Holy Donut.

In the interest of science, let’s take a closer look at the doughnut issue. The anti-hunting crowd claims that each year, guides dump 7 million pounds of bait into the Maine woods to attract bears for hunters seeking to bag a trophy. But according to a story in the Bangor Daily, state bear biologist Randy Cross has calculated that if that figure is correct (he doubts it is) all those baked goods amount to just one doughnut for every acre of bear habitat.

There are probably more doughnuts per acre of human habitat in Portland.

Whatever minimal effect baiting has on bears’ cholesterol levels, Cote of the Wildlife Conservation Council says the current system has given Maine the healthiest population of the animals in the country, with the lowest number of complaints. But this referendum could change that in a hurry.

After Massachusetts banned hunting with bait in the 1990s, reports of nuisance bears more than doubled.

Colorado also drank the Humane Society Kool-Aid. Now home invasions by bears are so common that one county has banned levered door handles on new houses because they’re so easy for the beasts to open.

In Washington, the lack of effective hunting methods – only about 7 percent of hunters are successful, compared to 25 percent in Maine – has resulted in an increased population of bears that causes over $5 million damage each year to the timber industry by stripping bark off trees. In Oregon, the figure is closer to $12 million annually.

Is it any wonder the Syfy channel is preparing a movie called “Bearnado”?

Of course, if the Humane Society has its way, that won’t be the end of the disaster flicks. Once the group succeeds in banning bear hunting, it’ll return to save the moose from the local gun-toting barbarians. Sensible management of that herd (moose, not barbarians), in the form of an annual hunt, has resulted in a one-third reduction in moose-vehicle collisions since 2008. But it’s so much more … uh … humane to let them overpopulate and slam into cars.

It’s 2020, and a skinny coyote, an emaciated bobcat and a scrawny fox crawl into a Portland supermarket. “Got any meat?” they ask the manager.

“No,” she says. “Since hunting your kind was banned, your fellow starving predators have cleaned me out.”

The three creatures regard the manager in much the way Yogi looks at a picnic basket.

“I just remembered,” she hastily adds, “there’s a deer and a rabbit foraging in the produce section.”

I’m waiting with baited breath for your comments emailed to

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33 Responses »

  1. Trust the biologists, the signs say. Trust the science. But- the biologists themselves are not unbiased. And, isn't it funny how the same people who want us to "trust the science on this issue, scorn the science behind global warming, evolution, etc?

    I don't care if bears are hunted- I think if I was a bear, and it was my destiny to be shot, I would prefer it to happen while I was happily munching a doughnut and the shot killed me instantly, I think it would really suck, on the other hand, to get my foot caught in a trap and be stuck there for a day or two, and then get shot.

    I keep waiting for both sides to come up with good arguments. Nuisance bear encounters will go up, with or without baiting, trapping and dogs, because people keep encroaching on the bear habitat.

    The hunters tend to talk out of both sides of their mouths- we must use these methods because bears are so scarce,and then, if we don't do this, we will be overrun with bears.

    I have spent decades roaming in the Maine woods, and have only seen one bear, one time in the wild.
    I do know folks who claim to have seen plenty.

    One problem the pro-bait people have is this; it just doesn't sound sporting. If you approached a city dweller, even a dyed in the wool, conservative republican, but a person who has never even set foot in a wilderness, let alone hunted and asked them, "Do you think it's sporting, to leave a pile of jelly donuts for a bear to eat and then shoot him while he eats them?" The answer will probably be no. Yet, I keep hearing that this is a conservative vs. liberal issue.

    Of course the reality of the hunting isn't anything like that, according to my bear hunting friends. But, I don't see much explanation as to to the how the reality of it is,in the press. I would like to. I would also like to see a reporter probe into if it's true that some of the wildlife biologists have a very real monetary stake in the outcome of this election.

  2. Mr. Diamon --

    Is everybody who disagrees with you dumb, or just those who disagree on this issue?

    I have listened to many opinions on this matter, and have not made up my mind how I will vote. I don't think it is nearly as simple as you make it out to be.

    And even if I agree with you, I certainly do not think that those who disagree with me are dumb. Or clueless. Or ignorant.

    Do you feel you accomplish something by calling people names? Does it advance your argument?

  3. Snowman I'm as conservative as anyone should be yet I finally agree with you! However my gripe is starving a dog until he chases a bear up a tree just so some idiot can come shoot it and pretend to be a hero. I grew up in the woods and seldom saw a bear. They don't want to interact with humans. The only reason bear invade residential area is lazy people make it so easy to get a free feast what bear could resist? Maybe this ban would make man evolve into a real hunter again.....

  4. What comes from those people next.... No bait in lobster traps or even no lobster traps????

  5. I laugh at the hypocrisy involved in this referendum. The supporters of the ban advocate "fair chase" hunting methods and that is fine... Even the top dog of the Humane Society said he supports fair chase. And he showed up in Portland wearing leather shoes and a leather belt. How does a cow have any chance if it is led into the slaughter house by its halter? Some of the balky cattle are enticed with grain... As are hogs before the are killed. At least the bear has a chance... Or how about the goose that has his feathers plucked off his carcass in or to stuff a down jacket? Or the poor little mouse that is baited with cheese and a trap snaps his neck. Or even worse poisoned with D-Con? Is any of the aforementioned fair chase..???? If you eat bacon, beef , chicken, or goat and you support the ban, then you are a hypocrite. If you wear leather products or have leather seats in your car and support the ban, then you are a hypocrite. If you support the ban....well get the idea. At least the bear has a chance

  6. What about the 40 million the state will loose in revenue if this referendum passes. Where is the state going to make up for that money.

  7. I have hunted Bear for years both Baited and Free Chase with measured success, even as a kid in Temple when there was a Bounty. (Racoons and Porcupines too). Imagine getting paid to kill in addition to baiting? I even know people who bait poor little mice and rats, even ants and flies for the sake of killing them. In fact there are some that even get paid to do it. (who said barbaric?). Bear hunting is a win win win, maintains a healthy Bear population, creates an economic engine, promotes a self preservation culture. "Somedays you get the Bear, somedays, somedays the Bear gets you". BTW, how do we justify bait for fishing? Just asking!

  8. Some people feel as though they should impose their beliefs on others. If you disagree with these methods of hunting bears, don't participate.

  9. The hypocrisy will come after the vote, when some liberal yuppie south of the LA area are bothered by a nuisance bear and call IFW to relocate the bear "up north".

  10. Al's editorial reminds me of an old joke.

    Two men from Lewiston come up to Farmington to bear hunt - They see a road sign that says
    "BEAR LEFT" so they went home.

  11. It all gets down to basic moral philosophies, doesn't it?

    Indeed, does a fish feel terror and pain as it's yanked from the water? Is it humane to have a mouse get stuck on a glue trap? Is it better, for that mouse, if he's one second nibbling on something yummy and the next, his neck is broken and he's in the eternal land of 20 virgin mice?
    In my experience, there is nothing quite as foul and ruined as a building that has been overrun with mice. When it comes to them, I can be heartless, yet, I admit, seeing one struggling on a glue pad gives me pause.

    There has even been some rather unsettling new evidence that plants may have more cognizance than we ever suspected. Honest, really- I am not making that up.

    Is it humane to boil a live lobster? Does it feel the pain, does it have a moment of terror as it gets dipped into boiling water? Or, is life for a lobster no more than life is for my computer?

    Not many organisms get to die from old age.
    Humans are rather unique, in that we have for the most part removed ourselves from the food chain. It's a fact of life for most creatures. What would it be like for us, if we knew that we would most likely die by being attacked and eaten by a predator? Our ancestors knew all about it, they probably all too often became a meal for a lion or tiger or whatever. What would it be like, to live your life knowing that moment will surely come?
    Most of us hope we will have a peaceful death and the odds are pretty good that we will. When we hear of a ghastly crime committed, we think of the terror the victim must have felt, the horror of what they endured before death. So- why do we think that's Okay for an animal to feel that?
    Yet, that is how the human race got to where we are, our ancestors hunted in whatever method might work to put food on the table. We didn't concern ourselves with how that mammoth felt as we speared it to death.

    From an evolutionary, species survival point of view, domestic animals, such as cattle, pigs and chickens, have found a very secure niche. The species is insured of continuing, even as the individuals are born only to die and be eaten. Does that make it Okay? Most social insects, bees, ants etc., sacrifice the individual for the common good. Salmon spawn and then die. A mayfly's life is but a brief few moments, lived but to perpetuate the species.

    Again, I feel it's a mistake to label this as a conservative vs. liberal issue. It's more a country dweller vs. city dweller, or differing philosophies.
    It's all something to think about.

  12. Are the members of the Humane Society all vegans? Or do they not know that not only do we bait our food, we fatten them up and lead them to slaughter. On the same instance, would they have our cows, pigs, sheep, chickens, and other animals who end up on our dinner plates all be set free to roam so we can conduct 'fair hunts' for them. Or is this different because we raise them for food because not everyone likes bear or other meat from the wild.

  13. An 80 year old man was having his annual checkup, and the doctor asked him how he was feeling.

    "I've never been better!" he boasted. "I've got an eighteen year old bride who's pregnant, and having my child! What do you think about that?"

    The doctor considered this for a moment, then said, "Let me tell you a story. I knew a guy who was an avid hunter. He never missed a season. But one day went out in a bit of a hurry, and he accidentally grabbed his umbrella instead of his gun. So he was in the woods, and suddenly a grizzly bear appeared in front of him! He raised up his umbrella, pointed it at the bear, and squeezed the handle. And do you know what happened?" the doctor queried.

    Dumbfounded, the old man replied "No."

    The doctor continued, "The bear dropped dead in front of him!"

    "That's impossible!" exclaimed the old man. "Someone else must have shot that bear."

    "That's kind of what I'm getting at..." replied the doctor.

  14. Some of us have an idealized image of "hunter." Dumb, huh?

  15. Picture yourself walking alone in Boston's worst ghetto when suddenly several men are running full speed after you, fully intending to kill you. Some of you folks have a convincing argument concerning baiting, but never will when it comes to hungry dogs doing the dirty work.

  16. I am a 5th generation guide/hound owner/bear Hunter. This referendum is bad business for Maine and shouldn't be allowed here. The HSUS has openly claimed they are going after all hunting and will not stop.
    A hound to us guides is an athlete a tool our very best friends. Yes there are some bad apples in our bunch like all groups of people. Can a starving marathon runner win? No they cant. The HSUS has people believe that we as houndsman starve our dogs so they will want to catch and kill the bears. Will we don't and any guide that does will not be in business long. Most hound owners feed there dogs better then themselves. How can you expect a broken level is going to make your floor level. Hounds as a tool of a trade are more then taken care of and kept up to date on shots and has been trained and bred to chase the black bears and loves every minute of it. I have said this before and will again any person on that doesn't know and wants to learn is more then welcome to tag along and see what this is all about.
    Never thought the bear referendum would bother deer hunters and moose hunters well guess again. Did you know that during the birthing season of moose and deer. The newborns are one of the bears favorite meals to the point they kill off just as many as the coyotes do. Did you know that when a population of animals is not properly managed mother nature takes over with diseases and suffering to the death for the poor animal. Did u know a nuisance bear costs roughly 2000 dollars to tax payers. Do u know that the license fees we pay will go up once this passes. Did you know this went to the big house in Augusta not once but twice and shot down by OUR elected officials. Did u know that the HSUS hired a signature gathering firm to lie and deceive the people of southern Maine to sign the petition.
    I lost a lot of friends shed some blood and tears fighting for our freedoms and is this is a slap in all Americans face with what they have done. Talk about manipulating a system. I plead to you all to do your research and gather the facts before voting NO ON 1 in november. Don't let emotions rule at the booth .

  17. To captain planet. Are professional athletes starved before a game? Don't know the answer is NO! Anyone with a hunting dog bird, rabbit, coon, cat, duck, and yes BEAR HOUNDS take better care of these athletes/pets/comrades then a high percentage of people take care of their children. We do not "starve" dogs to chase bears, it is what they live for and in their blood to do. So if you do not know then ask or go along and see how it really is.

  18. Unless you have bred, raised and trained hunting dogs, please do not listen to the many stories being told about how folks hunt bear with dogs. Hunting dogs are not "starved" to tree a bear. Far from that, as to keep hunting dogs healthy they need calories to actually be healthy and happy. Ask anyone who has raised dogs to hunt, anything from bear to ducks and yes even to be used for search and rescue of humans, they will tell you the canine's food is a main portion of maintaining dogs. Stating this just to clarify that point. I also believe no hunter would knowingly leave or abandon their hunting dog in the woods. One of the reasons, many hunters now have their dogs wear the now available (these were not available years ago because of technology) GPS collars.

    With any issue where there are two sides, it's like a sandwich - there are two sides and a lot in the middle. The middle are folks who have not decided. The sides are those for and against the issue. Some people are more polished in explaining their reasoning - some are not. Some are brash and tend to name call or put tags on folks who don't agree with them. That is life! And I must say, it comes from both sides - how is that old adage - Pot don't call the kettle black! Let's all try to get away from being the crispy toast on one side of the sandwich.

    I live in Maine (and have stayed my whole life) because I love all it has to offer. If I wanted the city life I would have remained in Portland after college OR moved to NJ, NY or a much more urban area where I would have made more money! I have watched the laws of hunting various species in our state change for over 5 decades.

    Maine's Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has done an exceptional job of maintaining the balance of species and monitoring the effects of Mother Nature. They have tried in earnest to maintain a healthy balance while dealing with all our weather has to offer yet still allowing us to enjoy hunting, fishing and yes even recreational animal/bird watching (in the many now protected areas of our state). They have the ability to modify areas of the hunt, bag limits and many other things - without making any changes to our laws (which is what this referendum would do)! Steel Jaw TRAPS ARE NO Longer allowed! Perhaps they could even regulate the type of bait used (if given a chance)! Trust our biologists to do the best for the species in our woods - it is their mission - their reason for existing! Vote NO on #1!

  19. Thank you. Emotions change like the wind. No vote should be based on emotion. No vote should be based on the manipulation HSUS heaps on those who base their thoughts on emotion. Sound science, proven over four decades, facts, knowledge, personal experience - those are the things intelligent votes are cast upon.

  20. a starving dog cant catch a bear,bear dogs are long distance runners .how many fat humans are long distance can not make a dog hunt bear ,they have to want to

  21. The biologists who support bear baiting also make a living running bear hunting camps and guiding bear hunters to shoot baited bears. Their extended families also do so. That is not hearsay or speculation, that's a fact.

    That doesn't mean they are not correct, but it does mean that they are not unbiased.

    Morals do change and evolve. It used to be morally okay to own slaves. It used to be morally okay to beat a horse.
    Our moral views on abortion have shifted back and forth over time.
    It used to be fine to make children work in factories for 12 hours at a time.
    It used to be Okay to dump sewage into rivers.
    The list goes on and on. We evolve. We change.

    We live in a democracy, which usually means the majority viewpoint rules. That doesn't mean the majority are always right, but it's how we decided to run our country.
    So, if a majority of Mainers decide that hunting bears with dogs- baiting them and trapping them is wrong, then so be it.

    You can't pick and chose the laws you want to live by.

  22. Snowman, if it bothers your morals, than don't do it. This isn't a moral issue, if you had taken the time to read some of the posts above, it's a maintaining of the proper balance of a bear species, for their good and humans. If you have a better plan than what currently exists for hunters of bear (which I am not) than by all means let everyone else know. If you had read any other information about what has happened to other states bear populations when they passed bans on this type of bear hunting, you'd see that maybe this needs this is ludicrous to think it would work here in Maine.

    I think the fact that you compare the tactics of hunting bear in Maine with slavery gives a pretty good indication that you've made up your mind and no amount of reasoning from the opposing side is going to adjust your thinking.

    I hope that at least if this passes, you have some common sense to have some means of protecting yourself and your family when smokey comes a calling at your house. An increased bear population is going to put a strain on their food sources and is only going to cause more human and bear contacts, and guess what? Bears do come armed.

  23. Bruce:
    if you have read through all my comments on this topic, you will see that I am neutral. I don't hunt bears, but I don't have a issue with it. I don't think baiting them is necessarily wrong, though I wouldn't want to do it. I do think that trapping bears or any other wildlife, to kill them, is unethical. As for hunting with dogs, I haven't formed an opinion. We use dogs to hunt other wildlife and that is generally accepted and I have also done that.

    What I am bothered about, is that the purported experts on the subject are not unbiased. Even though they are being paid by the taxpayers of the state of Maine to provide science, they also profit directly from bear hunting.
    I think that is wrong and unethical and I am disappointed that our media has not dug deeper into this issue and reported on it.

    Some of these hunting tactics have been banned in other states without negative effects. Bear human interactions can have many causes, not the least is humans encroaching on bear habitat. So I am not convinced that the "science" is valid.

    My reference to morals and the analogy to a change to our views on slavery was in response to another who said the decision should not be made by emotion.
    Our emotions and our morals evolve. Lots of things that we used to do, we no longer do and we haven't always changed because of science.
    If most of the people in Maine object to current bear hunting techniques, then so be it. It doesn't matter if they hunt them or not, the majority rules. If, we are overrun by bears then the topic will be brought up again.

  24. Snowman - Please substantiate your comment by providing names and businesses of Maine State Biologists who are also running hunting camps. I looked into Randy Cross and Jennifer Vashon and could find no such evidence. These two are super committed to a healthy Maine black bear population, Randy has been our biologist for 30 years. Again, I searched Google for a fair amount of time and could find nothing. Please shine a light on this. However, your comparison to climate change is mere claptrap.

  25. My parents taught me to oppose cowardice,cowardice,and cruelty. And to stand behind my words. I wish those ideals were contagious.

  26. snowman

    July 12, 2014 • 4:29 am
    Hunting heritage:

    Here son, this is how to shoot a bear. Pile up a mound of old donuts and wait until the bear shows up and then shoot it.

    It's a father/son bonding moment like no other.

    Then there's, oh. look, the bear stepped in our trap. Boy he is he ever pissed off and in pain. Should we shoot it right now or watch it suffer for a little while first?

    I bet the pig won't be very happy at the roast either.

    And yet snowman you say you are "neutral" on this subject ?

  27. Davis, dig deeper. Maine has some large families and they all don't have the same last names.

    I wasn't referring to climate change- I was referencing that people keep expanding into areas that bears live in.

  28. snowman
    August 25, 2014 • 1:43 pm
    Trust the biologists, the signs say. Trust the science. But- the biologists themselves are not unbiased. And, isn't it funny how the same people who want us to "trust the science on this issue, scorn the science behind global warming, evolution, etc?

    August 28, 2014 - 3:43 pm
    I wasn't referring to climate change- I was referencing that people keep expanding into areas that bears live in.

    ??? Do you even read your own comments?

    Moving on. You made the accusation that our Maine State Biologists are profiting personally from bear hunting, yet you refuse to cite names, businesses, or your sources. This leads me to believe that your statements are hogwash.

    Just curious Snow...did you vote for Angus King?

  29. Okay, the dogs are all fat and happy. The gang in the ghetto chasing you with intent to kill also happens to be fat and happy, I'm glad that's a good feeling for you. I should have realized bear probably enjoy the rush as well. Man has to compensate for his shortcomings somehow so call in the dogs!

  30. Davis:

    The point is, people "trust" science when it tells them what they want to hear, and they don't when it doesn't.
    I didn't directly link global warming to bear hunting.

    If bears have to be shot, then probably doing it while they are eating doughnuts is the way to do it. But I wouldn't want to do it together with my kids. And, yes, I think using traps is a nasty business, again, one I wouldn't want my children to be involved with.

    I stand by my statements regarding the biologists having a conflict of interest. As I have said here before, I don't lie.
    While you may not know who I am, the Bulldog does and I am not about to make a statement that could possibly get me sued.

    I think it's a sad day for journalism, when reporters dig in and fail to find the whole story.

  31. don't stand behind your statements at all. You hide behind a pseudonym.

  32. Snowman is not about to make a statement that could get him sued, nor will he give the name(s) of the alleged biased biologists. Why? Because in a lawsuit for libel you cannot have a nameless plaintiff.

  33. Has anyone notified the Penobscots? How about Canada? Will hunting become another reverse export? Is fishing next? The masses South of LA will decide this, how much respect do they have for the rights of Rural folks for self determination. Appeal to the masses to help out and vote no! Maybe a $50 surcharge on ski lift tickets, snowmobile permits, campsites, etc for out of Franklin County users of other local resources to cover the revenue losses. "Attention Portland voters, help Rural Mainers retain ther culture under laws set by the Professionals.". Vote NO!