S. 430: An Act relative to the hunting of bear
MSPCA Position: Oppose
Sponsor: Senator Donald Humason
Status: Click Here
This bill would effectively repeal the ban on unfair hunting practices against bears, including bear baiting and bear hounding. Hounding and baiting were banned in statute in 1996. Baiting had been prohibited by regulation prior to that.
What is bear baiting?
- Hunters use large piles of food, like rotting pastries and pizza, to attract bears to a certain area.
- The “lucky” bears can feed on this trough for a few days before the hunter claims his life.
- Other bears, unworthy of the hunter’s bullet, could end up eating this food for the entire season. Then, associating humans with food, they become “problem bears” who wander into populated areas upending garbage cans looking for their next meal.
What is bear hounding?
- Hunters use packs of radio-collared trailing hounds to pursue bears until the animal seeks refuge in a tree or turns to fight the hounds on the ground.
- Hound hunting is very stressful for the bear and can be extremely dangerous for the dogs.
- Hounds are unable to distinguish whether a female bear has a dependent cub, which often results in the death of a mother and orphaning of young cubs that later die of slow starvation or predation.
Why should the ban on these practices continue?
- Unfair chase: Baiting and hounding bears provides an unfair advantage to the hunter. In baiting, there isn’t even a chase; the unfortunate animal is lured to an area with the promise of food and shot while eating.
- Feeding bears creates problem bears: Bears that are fed near humans or where humans once were are likely to associate people with food and then are more likely to come into contact with populated areas more and more. Bears have a natural wariness to humans which is overcome by the promise of an easy-to-obtain meal.
- Disturbance to natural wildlife: Baiting and hounding affect more than just the target bear populations. Hounds have a free-range for which to locate a bear and inevitably chase non-target populations like deer and moose, adding unnecessary stress to these animals. Baiting can provide unnatural food sources to more than just bears, which can cause sickness or disease in other animals.
- Stress and harm: Bear hunting seasons often coincide with the black bear’s intensive feeding session before hibernation. Hunting practices, especially hounding, cause bears to change their feeding and lifestyle strategies by becoming more nocturnal to avoid being hunting. If it is a poor feeding season, bears could expend more energy running from hounds than they would need to survive hibernation.
- The ban on baiting and hounding has not reduced the number of bears harvested: Despite what some hunters may claim, the number of bears harvested each year has remained relatively consistent or increased since the ban on unfair practices. 2014 was a record year for bear harvest.