AUGUSTA (AP) — A senior Maine wildlife official said her department paid a company $6,600 for web design and a PowerPoint presentation defending bear-baiting not to sway voters in an upcoming referendum, but as a matter of public education.
Judy Camuso, director of the wildlife division of the state’s Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, was responding to a complaint by the anti-bear-baiting group Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting that public money was being spent to campaign against the referendum.
Camuso’s department has actively voiced its opposition to the ballot measure, and Camuso told the Portland Press Herald she believes Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting has been putting out misinformation.
“One thing I can tell you where I struggle as a biologist is in taking the science and making it understandable to the public. That’s where we need to go for outside help,” she said.
Katie Hansberry, director of Mainers For Fair Bear Hunting, argued the $6,600 expenditure was an improper use of public money for a political purpose.
Cumberland County Superior Court Justice Joyce Wheeler ruled Wednesday that Inland Fisheries & Wildlife employees have a First Amendment right to express their views about bear-baiting. She also ruled that Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting had not shown they had suffered “irreparable injury” as a result of the department’s activities.
The bear-hunting question on the Nov. 4 ballot asks: “Do you want to ban the use of bait, dogs or traps in bear hunting except to protect property, public safety or for research?”