Some days you eat the bear

Politics + other mistakes
By AL DIAMON  |  June 20, 2013

One fine summer morning a few years ago, my neighbor stepped out on his deck to discover that the often-repeated axiom about where bears do their defecating was not as absolute as some people might believe. A member of the species Ursus americanus had taken a sizable dump next to his shiny new grill.

Shortly thereafter, a Protestant was chosen as pope.

Fortunately, such occurrences are rare. The rules about popes and poop can generally be relied upon, thanks to longstanding doctrine (popes) and carefully crafted wildlife management (poops).

Maine's bear population is kept in check by reasonable hunting practices. And some unreasonable ones, too.

Bears are difficult to hunt using the same methods as moose or deer. So, state law allows baiting, a process that calls for leaving stale pastry, moldy pizza, and other refuse in a particular spot until a bear becomes used to visiting the site for free food. A hunter then waits in a tree stand for Bruno to show up, whereupon the former pops the latter with a clean shot through some vital organ.

Done properly, baiting bears is humane and effective. Contrary to what you've been told (probably by the same folks who claim bears would never use your porch for a toilet), bear meat is quite edible, particularly in stews. And increasing the amount of sex on bearskin rugs is one of the few options Maine has to boost its declining birthrate.

While I have big problems with hunting bears using dogs (some owners deliberately starve their packs to make them more aggressive, and dogs are sometimes injured or killed during confrontations with bears) and traps, I recognize that we have to eliminate a certain number of bruins each year if I don't want to interrupt one of them using my deck as its personal lavatory.

Which is why I voted against the 2004 referendum question backed by the Humane Society of the United States that would have outlawed most forms of bear hunting. Such a wide-ranging ban would have caused a surge in the bear population and an increase in human-bear interactions, to the detriment of both creatures.

Now, the Humane Society is back for another try. It introduced a bill in the Legislature to stop trapping and the use of dogs in bear hunting. The measure went nowhere, but the society is planning to follow up with another referendum, one that goes farther than the proposed legislation to include baiting. Since the group's last effort lost at the polls by only six percentage points, it's not out of the question that the results could be reversed this time.

That would mean I'd have to stock my deck with toilet paper and whatever type of air freshener bears prefer. Probably essence of rotting calzone.

I'll do whatever I can to prevent that from happening — except for one thing:

I won't support the Sportsman's Alliance of Maine in its dunderheaded attempt to amend Maine's Constitution to prevent citizen-initiated referendums on wildlife issues, a proposal that's already been rejected by the Legislature.

According to David Trahan, SAM's executive director, writing in the Bangor Daily News, such a drastic step is necessary because the Humane Society is "a bully" and "ruthless."

Sort of like the National Rifle Association.

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