It’s the fall of 2015. A bear walks into a doughnut shop in Portland and says, “Give me two dozen assorted to go.”
“Sorry,” says the bakery’s proprietor. “Ever since that referendum backed by the Humane Society of the United States passed last year, it’s been illegal to feed doughnuts to bears. It’s really cutting into my business.”
“I understand,” replies the bear. “It’s not your fault voters made such a shortsighted decision. Unfortunately, though, you’ll have to—forgive the pun—bear the consequences.”
Whereupon, the beast leaps the counter, mauls the baker, and trashes his store.
This incident of pastry-related hooliganism is fictional. You should have guessed that when the bear started talking. But if you’re dumb enough to think banning all the most common methods of bear hunting in Maine will be good for wildlife management and the economy, you’re also so clueless that you didn’t know bears can’t speak English. Most of this state’s bruins would have ordered those doughnuts in French.
Your ignorance doesn’t end there. You’ve likely bought into the Humane Society’s claim that the referendum on the November ballot is only concerned with what Katie Hansberry, campaign manager for Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, referred to in the Bangor Daily News as “our beloved, majestic bears.”
It isn’t. The money being spent ought to tell you there’s more at stake here than whether it remains legal to lure bears to their deaths by dumping stale doughnuts in the woods. According to campaign finance reports, the Humane Society has already spent close to $900,000 to promote the bear-hunting ban and will be dumping, not doughnuts, but more big bucks in the coming weeks in an effort to lure you into its trap.
“Why are they spending so much money to do this?” James Cote, the campaign manager for the Maine Wildlife Conservation Council, asked somewhat rhetorically. “They dress it up that they’re not after all hunting, but it’s pretty clear they don’t like hunting, period.”
Unfortunately for Cote and this state’s long tradition of thoughtful management of our natural resources, the decision on whether to preserve the bear hunt—and thwart future efforts by the Humane Society to go after other types of hunting—will be made by voters in southern Maine, who won’t have to suffer the consequences of casting ballots based on emotion rather than fact.
At least not until that Sunday morning when they find Yogi and Boo Boo in line ahead of them at Holy Donut.
In the interest of science, let’s take a closer look at the doughnut issue. The anti-hunting crowd claims that each year, guides dump 7 million pounds of bait into the Maine woods to attract bears for hunters seeking to bag a trophy. But according to a story in the Bangor Daily, state bear biologist Randy Cross has calculated that if that figure is correct (he doubts it is) all those baked goods amount to just one doughnut for every acre of bear habitat.
There are probably more doughnuts per acre of human habitat in Portland.
Whatever minimal effect baiting has on bears’ cholesterol levels, Cote of the Wildlife Conservation Council says the current system has given Maine the healthiest population of the animals in the country, with the lowest number of complaints. But this referendum could change that in a hurry.