Maine’s bear population is exploding at the rate of between 2% and 4% annually. Recent incidents in southern and central Maine are evidence that Maine’s bear range now includes virtually the entire state.

This is largely a human-caused phenomenon, thanks to the State of Maine’s bear feeding program that permits the dumping of tons of food at thousands of bear feeding sites across Maine. The intent of this program is not to control Maine’s bear population but to support Maine’s bear hunting industry by producing more and bigger bears, primarily for out-of-state hunters, and to increase revenue for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

John Glowa

In 2004, and again in 2016, Mainers went to the polls to vote on ending the feeding of bears for the purpose of hunting them, as well as ending bear trapping and hounding. Both citizen-initiated referendums were narrowly defeated due, in part, to aggressive and non-science based anti-referendum campaigns by IFW.

I recently submitted a petition to IFW, signed by more than 150 registered voters, to change Maine’s bear hunting rule. If adopted, the amended rule would phase out Maine’s bear feeding program over a 10-year period. In this way, both bears and the bear hunting industry would have time to adapt. Scent and sight baits could continue to be used for hunting, as permitted by law, with any food placed in a bear-proof container, inaccessible for bears to feed from.

The amended rule would also require a permit to feed bears and would require hunters to provide IFW with the GPS coordinates for every feeding station, for purposes of research and enforcement. Presently there are no such requirements.

Maine’s bear “management’ system is a hoax. It was developed by a hand-picked committee consisting almost entirely of bear hunting advocates. Its primary goal is to expand hunting opportunities. The result of this so-called “management” is that Maine’s bear population has grown from some 23,000 bears in 2004 to approximately 45,000 bears today. This is some 10,000 bears above and beyond the natural carrying capacity.

IFW recently canceled a proposed study to assess the impact of feeding on Maine’s bear population. Maine’s bear management plan states that claims that this bear feeding program has grown the bear population are a “hoax” and that “bait myths have been debunked.”

Of course, IFW has provided no scientific evidence to back up these claims. In fact, science tells us that feeding bears produces more and larger cubs and that female bears that go into hibernation at a lighter weight produce fewer or no cubs that winter.

In Maine, bear cub production used to be higher every other year, depending on the abundance of mast crops, primarily beechnut. Cub production is now relatively stable from year to year, but at a higher rate.

What is IFW’s solution to this growing problem?

Rather than end the feeding program, they propose to extend the bear feeding season even longer and to allow hunters to kill more bears. Bears are visiting backyards and killing livestock and the only thing IFW has to offer is to tell us to stop feeding bears by taking care of our trash and removing our bird feeders.

If you reside in central or southern Maine and want bears in your neighborhood, if you keep bees and want bears tearing apart your hives, if you have children and want bears roaming around their school playground, if you want bears ripping open your trash, or if you feed birds and want bears tearing down your bird feeders, then by all means tell IFW that you support Maine’s bear-feeding program.

If you want Maine’s bear range and population to return to natural levels, and if you believe that bears should not be fed simply to support Maine’s bear hunting industry and IFW’s coffers, then please tell IFW that you support the proposed rule change to phase out this self-serving and dangerous bear feeding program.

John Glowa, a life-long wildlife advocate, is founder and president of The Maine Wolf Coalition and the author of John Glowa’s Maine Fish and Wildlife News. He lives in South China.

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