Threats mailed to the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife last week have prompted the department to protect certain employees with armed game wardens while state police investigate the “troubling correspondence.”

“Basically threats were made against more than one of our employees,” said DIF&W spokesman Mark Latti. “And because of that we’ve had to cancel some events.”

The first threatening message was received last Tuesday, Latti said.

Since then, the department’s wildlife division director Judy Camuso has backed out of two scheduled public appearances — a public debate in Bath last Wednesday and a public presentation in Norway. Both events centered on the upcoming referendum to ban the use of bait, hounds and traps in bear hunting in Maine.

Camuso is now being “protected around the clock,” Latti said.

“We’re taking the threats seriously and working with state police on this,” Latti said.

State police are currently investigating the source of the messages, state police spokesman Stephen McCausland said. He would not give details about the nature of the threats or the ongoing investigation. However, McCausland did debunk rumors that the FBI is involved.

“This is a state police investigation,” McCausland said. “We’re in pursuit of the source, and we don’t believe anyone is in danger.”

Camuso and other DIF&W biologists and game wardens have starred in a number of TV commercials and YouTube videos campaigning against the referendum to ban bear baiting, hounding and trapping, which is scheduled to be Question 1 on Nov. 4 ballot.

On Friday, Camuso was escorted by an armed game warden to a televised forum on the bear referendum at the WCSH studio in Portland without an audience, according to a recent Portland Press Herald story.

Wayne Pacelle, CEO and president of the Humane Society of the United States, was one of two people representing the Yes on 1 campaign for the forum. In reference to the threats received by the DIF&W, Pacelle told the Portland Press Herald that he is threatened often on animal advocacy issues, which tend to be emotional — and that the HSUS “abhors” such threats.

But others say this threat needs to be taken seriously — and is not the norm for politics here in Maine. James Cote, campaign manager for Save Maine’s Bear Hunt and Management Practices, the No on 1 campaign, took offense to the Pacelle’s comments because to him, they seemed “nonchalant,” according to a statement he issued to the BDN.

“Obviously the way they do things in Washington, DC, is much different than what we expect for civil political discourse here in Maine. Mr. Pacelle’s comments in the Portland Press Herald this morning were outrageous. It is deplorable that Mr. Pacelle would be so nonchalant about such a serious safety concern for the tremendous people at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. We would ask him, and the entire Yes on 1 campaign to denounce these and any future threats. This should not, and will not be tolerated — period,” Cote wrote.

Katie Hansberry, campaign director for Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, a coalition of organizations supporting Question 1, issued the following statement about the threats on Tuesday: “We strongly condemn such horrible behavior, which has no place in a political campaign.”