The bear hunting referendum
By John Frary
Let me clear: I’m warmly pro-bear and have been since my days in the cradle. Mother claimed that when my Teddy Bear lost a button-eye I remained in mourning for a full week. I often suspected Mother of making up stories like that to humanize me for her friends, but since I have no reliable memory from that early period and since she’s no longer alive to defend herself we’ll let that story stand. In any case I am, as I was, devoted to the Platonic Idea of a bear.
I should add that I’ve donated hundreds of dollars to the local animal shelter and equine rescue outfit. I’ve never actually assassinated an animal, although I may have run over a chipmunk last month (uncertain, no actual corpus delicti) and a bird committed suicide on my windshield in 1986 down in New Jersey. It’s true that I am a life-time member of the National Rifle Association, but I’ve armed myself only as a defense against the possibility of a vegan terrorist attack.
Maine politicians are fond of denouncing each other for accepting funding from out of state aliens, but I’m not much alarmed by outside money, as long as it does not come from terrorists or extra-terrestrial aliens. Maine has more than sufficient numbers of wealthy liberal political hobbyists within its borders. It matters little to me whether a liberal financier of big and ever-growing government resides in North Haven or the Virgin Islands. A liberal Statist is equally alien to me either way. The referendum funding, however, is a special and exceptional case. Deirdre Fleming, writing for The Maine Sunday Telegram reports that, as of Oct. 19, residents of Maine have contributed $17,991 to support the Question 1 while People-from-Away (PfA) have donated $1,493,068 in support of legislation designed to dictate the behavior of people in our state. I find the $887,278 donated other PfA in opposition inoffensive because their aim is to defend a status quo that Mainers themselves have established.
This disparity is over the top. It’s absurd. And, to add to the aggravation Mainers (sic!) for Fair Bear Hunting has asked for an emergency injunction to prevent Maine’s biology specialists from influencing the public. Our state’s bear biologists are reputed to be the best in the country. Governor LePage has ruled that these specialists may speak on the issue on their own initiative. They are not commanded to speak up. They know stuff and think the public should know it also. Katie Hansberry, the director of the organization, doesn’t think our citizens should suffer exposure to the expertise of the men and women whose expertise they have paid for. Katie the Mainer knows what’s good for us. She has spent almost as much time summering in Maine as she spent in law school.
I agree that being chased up a tree by dogs and shot is not fair to bears, but our experts tell us that fairness is not the issue at all. Population control is the issue and we are maintaining an acceptable level with current practices while “fair” hunting (rifles, no dogs) cannot. Overpopulation will turn bears into pests. This problem can only be controlled then by professional bounty hunters who will have to resort to the same methods that would be forbidden to mere sportsmen.
From what I’ve heard about the polling, there must be many Mainers who have never molested a bear in any way who sense the Fair to Bears Project is the thin edge of the wedge in a drive by a herd of exquisitely sensitive bourgeois busybodies to bring our state’s values into conformity with those of Bergen County, New Jersey.
The editorials in the Portland Press Herald and the Central Maine Papers opposing the Bergen County referendum are causing me some anxiety, but there’s no turning back.
John Frary is a retired history professor and associate editor of "The International Military Encyclopedia," and ran for Congress in 2008. He writes weekly columns for local newspapers and serves on the board of Maine Taxpayers United.