HSUS is using Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting to push another anti-hunting initiative onto another ballot this November. If it passes, running black bears with hounds, trapping bears, and hunting them over bait will be banned in Maine. Bear numbers in the state have increased by 30 percent in the last six years, but MFBH says Maine will have no trouble managing populations without these “cruel” methods.
This contradicts both the findings of state biologists and the experience of Maine sportsmen. All three gubernatorial candidates are against the ban, and about 11,000 hunters and trappers purchase bear permits each year.
Yet somehow, the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine and its partners are still scrambling to raise money to fend off HSUS. Although hunters have rallied, HSUS’s massive budget and cunning political maneuvers make it impossible to predict the referendum’s outcome.
From Children’s Books to Kesha
The battle started in May 2013, when HSUS called a meeting with David Trahan and Don Kleiner, the executive directors of SAM and Maine Professional Guides Association, respectively. Kleiner and Trahan met with five HSUS representatives at the back of the capitol building’s cafeteria. The staffers wanted to discuss a hounding and trapping bill.
“They said, ‘We have $3 million. We have polling data that says we can win in Maine. And if you don’t support our bill, we’re going to submit a referendum and take away baiting, too. When we win that, we’re going to take away all the other things you care about,’” Trahan says.
Trahan, who served as a state representative for eight years and a state senator for four, had never before encountered such an aggressive political strike.
“I’d call it borderline extortion,” he says. “We’re not going to be intimidated. I’ve lived here all my life and I love my state. People come in from out of state and think they’re going to burn everything we care about here? They’ve got a fight on their hands.”
But MFBH is employing more than straight intimidation. The group posted photos to Facebook of children drawing bears under the slogan “Kids for Cubs.” Trahan says they also hosted library readings of the children’s classic Blueberries for Sal, which features an amiable Maine black bear. They even recruited L.A.–born pop icon Kesha to their cause.
These tactics have gone a long way toward galvanizing sportsmen in the region. As of press time, sportsmen had already raised about $2 million for the campaign to defend bear hunting. According to Kleiner, it’s no secret that most of the campaign funds—on both sides—will be pumped into television ads to air in the weeks leading up to the election.
“Maine isn’t a rich place,” Kleiner says. “But we’ve seen a ton of support from hunting clubs and organizations in the Northeast and around the country. Even fishing guides are donating.”
Help Take Down HSUS
Can hunters really turn the tide against the Humane Society of the United States? Here’s how we can help take them down.