Outdoor news

Bear hunting season begins Aug. 25

By Staff | Aug 25, 2014

Augusta — Bear hunting season began on Monday, Aug. 25 at 5:19 a.m. throughout Maine. Last year, more than 10,000 hunters purchased permits to hunt bear and 2,845 bears were killed.

Black bear populations are growing throughout North America, and due to Maine’s heavily forested landscape, Maine boasts one of the largest bear populations in the United States at more than 30,000 bears. As a result, Maine has one of the longest hunting seasons in the country, stretching from the end of August to after Thanksgiving.

“Hunting is the department’s tool for managing this thriving bear population,” said Jennifer Vashon, one of the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s bear biologists. “And due to Maine’s dense forest, bear hunting with dogs and with bait are essential for controlling Maine’s bear population.”

Department bear biologists expect bait hunters to do well this year as the availability of many natural foods has been delayed or are in low supply due to the cool, wet spring. Over a span of 40 years, Maine’s bear study has shown that not only does the availability of natural foods drive bear cub survival and bear birth rates, but it also directly influences when bears den for the winter, as well as hunter success rates. In poor natural food years, hunter success is higher than in years when natural food is abundant.

Availability of natural foods also fuels nuisance bear complaints. In 2013, when there was a good natural food crop, nuisance complaints dropped to 311, well under the five-year average of approximately 500 complaints per year. This year, due to poor natural foods, nuisance complaints have increased to more than 600.

Maine’s bear hunting season is divided into three segments. Hunters can hunt bears with bait from Aug. 25 to Sept. 20; hunters can hunt bears with dogs from Sept. 8 through Oct. 31; and hunters can still hunt or stalk from Aug. 25 through Nov. 29. The trapping season runs from Sept. 1 through Oct. 31.

One is allowed to take up to two bears during the year; one by hunting and one by trapping. More than 90 percent of the bear harvest occurs during the first four weeks of the season when hunters can use the traditional methods of hunting with dogs and baiting.

Maine is one of 32 states that allow bear hunting. In the 32 states that allow bear hunting, nearly three-quarters of the states (23) allow either hunting with dogs, bait or both.

Since 2004, Maine’s bear population has increased by more than 30 percent and is estimated at more than 30,000 animals. Bear/human conflicts have also increased in frequency in the past 10 years, with the department responding to an average of 500 nuisance bear calls a year.

Even with the lengthy bear season, only about 25 percent of all bear hunters are successful. By contrast, 72 percent of moose hunters, and 32 percent of turkey hunters were successful last year.

Deer hunters who hunted last year with an any-deer permit had a 58 percent success rate according to surveys; while without an any-deer permit, deer hunters had an 18 percent success rate. Historically, deer hunters success rates are in the 15 percent range.

Maine’s black bear population is closely monitored by department biologists through one of the most extensive, longest-running biological studies in the U.S. The study began in 1975 and continues today. Over nearly 40 years, department biologists have captured and tracked more than 3,000 bears to determine the health and condition of Maine’s bears and estimate how many cubs are born each year.

Successful bear hunters are reminded that it is mandatory to submit a tooth from their bear when registering. Tagging agents will provide envelopes and instructions to hunters as to how to remove the tooth. Biologists age the tooth, and the biological data collected help biologists adjust season lengths and bag limits for bears.

Hunters must have a bear permit in addition to a big game hunting license to hunt bear in Maine. Bear hunting is most popular and bear populations are the densest in the northern and downeast regions of the state.

The bear season is carefully regulated. Maine Game Wardens will be patrolling the woods of Maine ensuring that bait areas, hunting stands and blinds are labeled properly, and they will enforce all other laws pertaining to the hunting of bears.

Courier Publications' sports staff can be reached by email at sports@villagesoup.com or by phone at 594-4401.

Comments (5)
Posted by: Jeff Davis | Aug 28, 2014 07:17

It's always good to be clear. Thanks for the clarification. We appear to have a lot in common. I also agree with the hunter's right to hunt, I don't hunt any more and dad was a wicked avid hunter. I never did care much for the way coon hunters always hunted. So, I didn't coon hunt. Those not liking how bear are hunted probably shouldn't bear hunt. The Maine Black Bear is not an endangered animal. His survival as a species is not as stake.

Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Aug 28, 2014 04:16

Let me clarify my argument. Jeff.  I don’t question whether or not a hunter has the right to kill the bear.  I was a hunter many years ago, and my father hunted all his life.  Despite my distaste for it now I do believe that hunting is part of human nature whether necessary in the modern world or not.  Indeed, as many anthropologists will tell you, hunting played an important part of our evolution.  My problem is with certain forms of killing that I do not believe constitute “hunting” in any way.  Bushwhacking a bear over a pile of garbage in the woods can be called hunting in my opinion.  It’s a loser’s way of getting a bear requiring no courage, no intellect, no skill, and no virtue of any kind but simply a lack of any moral understanding or respect for life in general.  I believe the bear, as a denizen of our world and an ancient comrade in the struggle for survival deserves more respect than that.

Posted by: Jeff Davis | Aug 27, 2014 09:09

I don't believe the totem reasoning is very sound. I'm pretty sure that earlier Mainers carved moose heads on them as well. And they are regions of the planet where the actions of Americans under the Golden Arches is a vile and inhumane way to treat the sacred cow.

I understand the vegans' reason for not wanting people to hunt. All others, I question. If the problem is the humane slaughter of one of God's creatures, I can understand that as well. However, my main concern is the bear hunter. I have never known a wounded deer to climb a tree and try to eat the man that shot him. I say, safety first.

For those who believe that bears should have a fighting chance to escape into the wild, allow me to point out that we not watching the Running Man on television. These hunters are trying to fill their freezers. And I support them.

Posted by: Ronald Horvath | Aug 25, 2014 18:42

I agree,Caitlin.  Bears are not vermim.  They don't deserve to be trapped, hounded, or baited like pests.  The bear is an ancient totem for many peoples.  It was respected and venerated even when hunted by Native Americans and the honor of the kill was always given to an esteemed warrior.  Baiting in particular is ignoble, even cowardly.  Anyone who shoots a bear over a pile of garbage is not a "hunter" but simply an exterminator.   Hunting, in ancient times, was a test of courage and intelligence.  What courage is there in shooting an animal in the back while it searches for an easy meal?  None.

Posted by: Caitlin Hills | Aug 25, 2014 18:12

It is most unfortunate that this "article" seems to be a propaganda piece from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. It would be more appropriate to have included information from those opposed to bear baiting.

As someone who cherishes the Maine woods and its wildlife, it saddens me that our state has become the last bastion oftrapping, hounding, and baiting of bears . Maine already forbids trapping, hounding, and baiting deer and moose. But we allow people to trap bears in cruel traps and kill them at point-blank range while their heads are stuffed in a barrel of donuts, or to chase them with packs of frenzied hounds.


Government employees – the very individuals who devised this unfair and inhumane hunting program for bears – defend it and have become leading spokespersons for the campaign to promote baiting and trapping.  In hindsight, they couldn’t have been more wrong: a decade after voters narrowly rejected an initiative to clean up the sport, allowing baiting and other unfair methods to continue, we have 30 percent more bears—perhaps due to the 7 million pounds of food that bear baiters drop in the woods every year.


It’s time for us to reject the government’s attempt to tell us how to vote. After voters in Colorado, Oregon, and Washington banned these three cruel practices, and defied the wishes of the so-called experts in their states, their bear populations remained stable and human-bear conflicts did not increase. Their experience confirms what common sense already tells us: responsible wildlife management does not rely on setting out traps and mounds of jelly donuts as a way to kill bears.



Caitlin Hills


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