AUGUSTA, Maine (Jan. 22, 2013) -- The Humane Society of the United States praised Maine state Sen. Edward Mazurek, D-Knox County, for introducing legislation that would enact comprehensive protections for bears. It would end the cruel and unsporting practices of bear hounding and trapping, prohibit the trade in bear parts such as gall bladders for the black market, enact felony-level penalties for repeat bear poachers, and prevent the opening of a spring bear hunting season when mother bears are nursing dependent cubs.
"Maine has the shameful distinction as the only place in the country with both recreational bear trapping and hounding--trophy hunting practices that are completely devoid of fair-chase and do not respect Maine's hunting traditions," said Katie Hansberry, Maine state director for The HSUS. "Comprehensive legislation to protect bears from these inhumane practices, poaching and gallbladder trafficking is long overdue."
Trappers typically bait bears with an unnatural diet of grease and pastries to attract them to a particular spot in the woods. They are only required to check their traps once a day and the immobilized bear can suffer for hours. An animal's instinct is to break free from these foot snare traps, which can lead to extensive injuries.
Hounding involves fitting dogs with high-tech radio collars or GPS devices that allow trophy hunters to monitor the dogs' movement remotely. At the end of the chase, which can last for hours, the exhausted bear takes refuge in a tree and the shooter can kill his cornered prey, often shooting the animal off a tree branch at point-blank range. Sometimes the bear turns to fight the dogs on the ground, which can injure or kill the dogs and/or the bear.
Despite many excellent alternatives, bear gallbladders and bile are used in some traditional Chinese medicine and cosmetics, fueling the trade in bear parts which can be worth thousands of dollars overseas. The market for bear parts incentivizes poaching across the United States and abroad.
These unsporting and inhumane practices are entirely out of sync with Maine's hunting traditions -- just 13 percent of the bears killed in Maine are taken by hounding, most by out-of-state trophy hunters. Trapping accounts for less than 3 percent of the total bear take.
Current Maine law only authorizes a fall bear hunting season. Spring hunting of bears should not be authorized because cubs are still dependent on their mothers at that time and spring hunting inevitably leads to orphaning. In light of recent proposals to open spring hunting, this legislation clarifies that such hunting is explicitly prohibited under law.
The bill deters chronic bear poachers by elevating penalties for repeat violators who commit the most egregious wildlife crimes --including illegal night hunting, illegal road hunting, killing over the bag limit and the intentional waste of game -- to a class C felony.
Maine is one of only four states that does not prohibit the trade in bear parts. The others are Wyoming, Vermont and Idaho.
Maine is the only state in the country to allow recreational bear trapping.
Fourteen states -- including major hunting states such as Montana, Pennsylvania and Wyoming -- allow bear hunting, but prohibit the use of hounds.
The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization, rated the most effective by its peers. Since 1954, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. We rescue and care for tens of thousands of animals each year, but our primary mission is to prevent cruelty before it occurs. We're there for all animals, across America and around the world. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty -- on the Web at humanesociety.org.