I’ve been involved in dozens of political campaigns around the country over two decades, and the brazen lies and scare tactics used by state officials working in collusion with the bear baiting, hounding, and trapping crowd in Maine are among the worst I’ve ever seen. The Bangor Daily News, which doesn’t even support Question 1, has published editorials calling the opponents of the measure “dishonest” and judging their claims “low-quality arguments that don’t pass the straight-face test,” with the wrong compounded by the fact they are spending state tax dollars telling people how to vote.
The opponents of a ban on baiting keep saying “trust the experts,” but a court-ordered release of internal documents demonstrates that the experts don’t believe their own alarmist rhetoric. The “Yes on 1” campaign today released two new videos highlighting the other side’s hypocrisy and the hollowness of their claims.
The first video shows three uniformed staff members of the Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife — all but working full-time, it would seem, to defeat the baiting ban — saying “it’s a serious threat to public safety.” But their own words prove their claim to be false: DIF&W’s Randy Cross said in a 2012 email to a constituent, “I think your fear of bears is exaggerated and is not rational…Since there has not been an unprovoked bear attack in the history of white settlement in Maine, it is not a realistic threat.”
Moreover, in a recent op-ed, George Smith, the former director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and the guy who led the campaign against a similar initiative a decade ago, concedes that “you do not need to be scared of bears. I will admit that scaring you about bears was an important part of our strategy…If you see a bear in the woods, you are most likely to see its rear end as it flees.”
What’s worse, their TV ads feature a sensational bear attack in Florida, which has no relevance to baiting, hounding, and trapping. Except that the bear in this case was “baited” into an open garage with food in a trash can, and the people involved were charged by state wildlife officers for illegally feeding bears. That’s right, the opponents invoke this bear attack, from 1,500 miles away, involving people in a Florida neighborhood who were feeding this bear.
Precisely in order to avoid incidents like this, every reputable wildlife agency in the country says “Don’t feed the bears” — except the outliers in Maine and a small number of other states who support using Twinkies and Dunkin Donuts as a “wildlife management tool.” Good wildlife managers know that “garbaging for bears” is the worst thing you can do, because it swells the bear population and teaches them to look for human junk food.
The second video features DIF&W staff saying bears don’t struggle but “just sit there,” and that all of these tools are “necessary, safe, and kind.” With images of bears struggling to free themselves from wire snares, and being torn apart by packs of dogs, does the idea that these practices are “kind” really pass the straight-face test? It’s terror, not kindness. You have to wonder how detached and desensitized these people at the agency are, and shake your head at how far off of the rails they’ve gone in their public capacities. Of course, the head biologist for the state is a bear baiter and recreational trapper, so it should not come as a huge surprise.
Maine is in a sad class by itself as the only state in the nation to allow all three of these extreme methods of killing bears. And the apologists for shooting fed, treed, and trapped bears will apparently say and do just about anything to get their way. Please share these videos and make sure Maine voters and all concerned people know the truth about these false and dishonest claims.
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