Fred Rolfe: The sad reality behind Question 1

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Question 1 — what is it really all about?

The intent of the referendum is clearly to eliminate bear hunting and, ultimately, all hunting in Maine. The organization behind the question is supported by and funded almost entirely by the out-of-state “animal rights” organization known as The Humane Society of the United States —  a geo-political organization that has nothing to do with or is affiliated with local humane societies here in Maine, or any of the other thousand-plus groups nationwide.

The Humane Society of the United States has vowed to “stop hunting, animal agriculture and other uses of animals.”

HSUS has purposely and intentionally utilized its name to confuse Americans and take advantage of peoples’ desire to support organizations whose missions are to help abused and neglected animals.

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Fact: Nearly 90 percent of the animals shown in HSUS commercials are dogs and cats. The results, according to an ORC International survey, found that more than 80 percent of Americans believe that HSUS “is an umbrella group that represents thousands of local humane societies all across America.” More than 65 percent mistakenly believe that HSUS “contributes most of its money to local organizations that care for dogs and cats.”

That is the lie that keeps HSUS so well-funded. In 2011, HSUS raised $131 million, of which less than 1 percent of donor funds went to animal shelters.

An even more egregious example of the utter dishonesty of this organization occurred after Hurricane Katrina in 2005. HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle went all out in the media after Katrina, soliciting help for the thousands of displaced pets. HSUS raised $34.6 million under the pretense of helping displaced animals, but the organization contributed only $8.6 million worldwide in 2005, including Louisiana.

I will share a quote from one of the nation’s most liberal publications, The Huffington Post, referring to HSUS: “If you care about starving creatures, you’re probably better off grinding your dollars into a paste and feeding them directly. This may not be the best use of dollars, but at least all of them would be guaranteed to reach the animals.”

Just for the record, less than 1-in-4 bear hunters are successful. Of those who are successful, nearly 75 percent employed a Registered Maine Guide — a huge contribution to Maine’s economy.

One would hope that the citizens of Maine would recognize that until you’ve actually done a particular activity, you really aught naught try to outlaw it for everyone who has actually done it.

Hey, I don’t fish but I have no desire to take fishing away from people who do.

People should try listening to the state of Maine’s foremost bear biologists and maybe a few individuals who have actually hunted bears in Maine. Maybe have a conversation with one of the hundreds of people who have had to deal with nuisance bears, having lost livestock or pets, had damage to their home or possibly worse.

Another thing about HSUS — it claims that baiting bears is actually helping the species multiply. Providing bears with “millions of pounds” of doughnuts is helping them multiply, is acclimating them to human food and thus “causing bear-human conflicts.”

People must realize that bears are at the top of the food chain in the woods of Maine.

In Maine, bears have one, count ’em, one predator — man. Take away the one limiting predator and the bear population will mushroom.

Long before the first doughnut shop ever opened in Maine, or anywhere else, bears were going into winter dens with a thick layer of fat and a winter coat to match. They were surviving the harsh Maine winters at a time when the winters were really harsh.

Bears will get the food that they need to survive at the expense of all other wildlife. If bears want to feed in a wild blackberry patch, whitetail deer are not going to hang around and feed in that patch. Bears are a key predator of the whitetail deer and they kill and consume thousands of whitetail fawns every spring.

It doesn’t matter whether it is a blackberry patch, an oak stand, beechnuts, an alfalfa field or a farmer’s corn field, the black bear wins and all other wildlife loses.

If the only means available for controlling the bear population is the spot and stalk hunting method, then only about 300 to 500 bears will be harvested per year and the resulting population boom will be louder than any rifle ever fired.

The deer population will be decimated in just a few years as the bears eat the food the deer would normally eat, and the bears will then eat deer and then rabbits, followed by anything and everything else that bears want to consume.

Then it is on to people’s backyards — bird feeders, gardens, pets and so on.

They are the top predator in the woods of Maine. By hunting and harvesting sufficient numbers of them, the population can be kept in check and ensure that the bear’s natural fear of man is maintained.

Take away any reasonable means of success and man, the hunter, will basically stop hunting bears. Then what do bears have to fear?

Common sense tells us that voting “no” on Question 1 is the right thing to do.

Fred Rolfe lives in South Paris.

Maine Bear Hunting Ban Initiative, Question 1

Do you want to ban the use of bait, dogs or traps in bear hunting except to protect property, public safety, or for research?

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