Bear hunting season began today at 5:20 a.m. throughout the State of Maine. Last year, over 10,000 hunters purchased permits to hunt bear, with 3207 bears killed.
Maine’s bear population is one of the largest in the country, and Maine offers bear hunters a three-month bear season and a variety of traditional methods to hunt bear.
Since 2004, Maine’s bear population has increased by over 30 percent and is estimated at more than 30,000 animals.
Bear/human conflicts have also increased in frequency in the past 10 years, with the department responding to an average of 500 nuisance bear calls a year.
“Hunting is the department’s primary tool for managing this thriving bear population,” said Jennifer Vashon, one of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife’s bear biologists. “To manage Maine’s bear population at levels desired by a diverse public, Maine allows bear hunters to use several traditional methods over a three-month fall hunting season.”
Over 90 percent of the bear harvest occurs during the first four weeks of the season when hunters can utilize the traditional methods of hounding and baiting. There is also a two-month trapping season for bear, and hunters with the proper permit can shoot a bear during the deer firearms season.
Even with the lengthy season, only about 30 percent of all bear hunters hunting with bait or hounds and 20 percent of bear trappers are successful. By contrast, 79 percent of moose hunters, 38 percent of turkey hunters and 14 percent of deer hunters were successful in 2012.
Maine’s black bear population is closely monitored by department biologists through one of the most extensive, longest running biological studies in the U.S. The study began in 1975, and continues today.
Over the last 38 years, department biologists have captured and tracked over 3000 bears to determine the health and condition of Maine’s bears and estimate how many cubs are born each year.
Successful bear hunters are reminded that it is mandatory to submit a tooth from their bear when registering. Tagging agents will provide envelopes and instructions to hunters as to how to remove the tooth. Biologists age the tooth, and the biological data collected help biologists adjust season lengths and bag limits for bears.
Hunters must have a bear permit in addition to a big game hunting license in order to hunt bear in Maine. Bear hunting is most popular in the northern and Downeast regions of the state and is a vital part of the local economy. A 2004 study showed that bear hunting contributed over $70 million annually to the Maine economy and supports nearly 900 jobs.
The general hunting season for bear runs Aug. 26-Nov. 30. Hunting with bait is allowed from Aug. 26 until Sept. 21. Hunters may hunt with dogs from Sept. 9 to Nov. 1.
The bear season is carefully regulated. Maine Game Wardens will be patrolling the woods of Maine ensuring that bait areas, hunting stands and blinds are labeled properly, and they will be enforcing all other laws pertaining to the hunting of bears.