Black Bears: A Situation Analysis on Baiting and Hounding in
By Meredith Gore
Department of Natural Resources
The American black bear
TITLE: An Act
Prohibiting Certain Bear Hunting Practices
QUESTION: "Do you want to make it a crime to hunt bears with bait, traps or dogs, except to protect property, public safety or for research?" 
The general purpose of this document is
to provide an overview of bear baiting and hounding within the context of the
current debate in the state of
§ Summarize key elements of what bear baiting and hunting with hounds entails;
Review the status of the practices in various portions of
§ Provide a situation analysis within states recently confronting similar referendums;
This document WILL NOT:
§ Support or reject the merit of either side of the debate.
INFORMATION ON BEAR BAITING AND HOUNDING
This section synthesizes many fundamental questions related to bear baiting and hounding. Please see the appended State Hunt Matrix for additional state specific information.
What is bear baiting?
Baiting involves luring a bear to a bait station with biodegradable materials such as vegetables, meats, pastries or sweets, honey, or other foods. After bears arrive at the bait station, a hunter can choose the size, hide quality, or reproductive state of a bear he/she wishes to harvest. Bait varies, but should be biodegradable material intended to lure, attract, or entice black bears to an area. Agricultural operations are not considered bait stations. Bait stations should be tended to frequently to refresh bait and keep bears interested. The intent of luring a bear to a bait site is to assess the animal’s size, sex, quality, whether it has cubs, and provide the opportunity to harvest the animal, if desired.
Baiting is used for sport hunting, for
research, and nuisance bear management. Researchers might use bait to lure a
black bear to a hair snare, where hair samples can be collected when a bear walks
under a wire and snags a few hairs. This hair can be used for genetic testing that
can help managers to determine, for example, a population estimate for a region
or the amount of genetic variation in a region. Wildlife control officers might
bait a culvert trap -essentially a large, steel cylinder used to live-trap
bears- to capture a reputed nuisance animal and potentially relocate or
aversively condition it. Aversive conditioning is the use of negative stimuli
meant to trigger negative gustatory, olfactory, visual, or tactile sensations
in bears to repel them from a resource important to humans
What is hounding?
Hounding is the practice of using dogs to locate, track, pursue, and tree a bear so that the animal may be assessed for size, sex, quality, and whether or not it has cubs, and potentially harvested by a hunter if desired. Dogs are bred and trained specifically for hounding. A team of hounds - typically four to six- works with hunters to locate and tree bears, and once treed, the hunter determines whether the bear is suitable for harvest, based on the above criteria. Dogs are often very valuable.
Hounding is also used for sport hunting, for research, and for nuisance abatement purposes. Again, researchers might use hounds to channel a black bear to a hair snare as described above. Wildlife control officers might use hounds to assist in the capture or aversive conditioning of a reputed nuisance animal.
What is the historical context of baiting and hounding?
Bear baiting and hounding are often
considered to be important elements of the sport of black bear hunting. Given
the nomadic and reclusive habits of bears, chance encounters between bears and
humans are rare. This reason is often given as having led to the use of baiting
and hounding; they are a way to increase the odds of these encounters and
therefore allow for selective harvest of bears
There are many breeds of dogs that
share ancestral traits for hunting. The American Kennel Club notes that, “some
Working and training dogs to function
as a team and to locate and tree bears is considered an arduous yet rewarding
experience by many hunters. Baiting and hounding also allow hunters to be
selective with the animals they harvest, facilitating the assessment of size,
sex, and condition of the animal. Both practices are often considered
traditional techniques passed on from one generation of hunters to the next.
Both practices also generate revenue for regional guides and local communities
Those opposed to these two practices consider them to be inhumane and unethical, leading to an unfair advantage for the hunter. Baiting and hounding are often considered, from these perspectives, to be unfair in that they create a reallocation of the resource among hunters; hunters who do not hunt with bait or hounds have less of a chance at a successful hunt. Critics of baiting contend that it habituates bears to human food, leading them to become nuisances when they look for alternative sources of human food. Bait stations can also lead to an unnatural congregation of wildlife, facilitating the spread of disease among animals that are otherwise fairly solitary. Others perceive bait stations as litter or garbage sites causing eyesores or foul smells in public places. Finally, some critics dispute that hunters are in fact selective when using bait sites, and question whether hunters are able to distinguish female bears who are nursing. Critics of hounding claim that this practice can sometimes lead to private property trespassing when dogs chase or track a bear far from their owners, unaware of property lines or trespassing signs. They also claim that dogs can be killed or injured during confrontations with bears. Both baiting and hounding have also been blamed for contributing to conflicts among people.
How many bears are harvested in various states?
Bears may be harvested in 28 states. Please see the appended State Hunt Matrix for state specific details. Statistics for the most recent data available are provided.
Which states permit baiting and hounding?
Of the 28 states allowing black bear
harvesting, 11 allow baiting and 17 allow hounding; state-specific policies
exist and are detailed in the appended State Hunt Matrix. Seven states -
How many bears are harvested using baiting and hounding?
Please see the State Hunt Matrix for state specific details, where available. Some states do not collect specific harvest technique data.
What proportion of the total bear harvest can be attributed to baiting and hounding?
Please see the State Hunt Matrix for
state specific details, where available. Popular press articles have noted that
up to 78% of Maine’s annual black bear harvest
How do baiting and hounding affect black bear management?
The impacts of harvest strategies on
black bear management, as they relate to human-bear conflict, have long been of
interest to black bear managers. Indeed,
research has suggested that there is a positive relationship between
implemented harvest strategies
Consider the case of
The broader issue of supplemental
feeding of wildlife often encompasses baiting, and can also influence both the short-
and long-term management of black bear. Health problems in wildlife associated
with artificial feeding are receiving increased attention. Briefly, feeding can
lead to artificially large groups of bears in close proximity to each other.
This close proximity can potentially increase the spread of disease
transmission among bears that would not have otherwise encountered each other. While
bovine tuberculosis and chronic wasting disease have NOT been shown to impact
black bears, the general principles of enhanced transmission of infectious
disease, disruption of traditional movement patterns, and alteration of
community structure might relate to bears in the long-term, adversely affecting statewide
Natural factors influence short-and long-term
black bear management. Consider that the distribution and availability of foods
appears to be the most important determinant of hunter success
Bear harvests are affected by weather; during
hunting season, foul weather impedes hunter effort and often success. Bear
population trends also affects harvest, for example, the bear population in
A final consideration for short- and
long-term black bear management is hunter satisfaction. Hunter satisfaction is a
component of the MDIFW charge to provide bear-related hunting and viewing
opportunities. Hunter success rates are often looked at as an indicator of
hunter satisfaction; McDonald et al.
What are the economic considerations related to baiting and hounding?
Hunter participation influences the economic impacts of hunting. Caution should be used in interpreting these economic considerations; information gathered by federal sources group deer, elk, and bear hunting together in the “big game” category. A key factor to keep in mind is that deer hunting and related expenditures likely comprise a disproportionate amount of the dollar amounts discussed here.
In the United States in 2001, 10.4
million hunters participated in in-state hunts and 1.5 million hunters
participated in out-of-state hunts for big game
Maine hunting economics can be compared
to national hunting economics; in 2001, average annual per sportsperson
expenditures in Maine
One outfitting company in
What is the
role of non-resident hunters using baiting and hounding in
Non-resident hunters play a role in
If baiting and hounding are disallowed,
it is possible that the number of non-resident hunters harvesting black bear in
Biological and management effects could also be felt if
fewer non-residents participate in
AND HOUNDING BALLOT INITIATIVES OUTSIDE
A number of states precede
Considering brief situation analyses from other states where ballot initiatives addressed baiting and hounding can: 1) highlight recurring themes in the baiting and hounding debate; 2) illustrate the outcomes associated with each ballot initiative; 3) stress similarities and differences among states. These ballot initiatives are noted in the appended State Hunt Matrix.
In the few years prior to the ban, hunters enjoyed success rates of over 10% and harvested between 483 and 673 bears total; the total number of hunters participating in the annual hunt did not exceed 4,500. In the years after the ban, hunter success has ranged from 5% to 9% and total harvest has ranged from 278 to 983; the total number of hunters participating in the annual harvest has risen steadily to just over 14,000 in 2000. In 2000, with ONLY residents purchasing licenses at $30 each, $420,000 minimum was generated in economic revenue. Non-resident licenses cost $250 each, so the economic gain is much greater than $420,000.
In 1994, 52% of
During the five years before Measure
18 was passed,
In November 1996, 63% of
Hunting-related statistics since the
1996 passage of Initiative 655 are available.
These statistics show that total
harvest has increased since the ban, along with a substantial increase in
permits issued and a decrease in the proportion of hunters being issued a
permit actually hunting. A similar economic thought exercise to the one
Proposal D, rejected by 62% of voters
in 1996, would have banned the use of baiting and hounding of black bears. Petitioners
generated 341,000 signatures to bring the ballot initiative to the polls
An excerpt from a local paper
illustrates this, “…this year in
Applications, tags available, tags
issued, hunter-days, and hunter success have all increased annually since the failed
ballot initiative in 1996. Simultaneously,
and based in part on data supplied by hunters, black bear populations are
projected to be increasing in many portions of the state
Question 1, voted on in November 1996, established
the Massachusetts Wildlife Protection Act. Petitioners collected 155,000
signatures to bring the ballot initiative to ban bait and hounds to the polls
During the years before the ban, total
black bear harvest was 59
In 1996, Proposition 2 was rejected by 60% of voters. It proposed banning baiting and hounding during the fall black bear hunt and banning the spring hunt all together. Similar to other debates in the western US, sportsmanship and hunter ethics were called into play, and animal rights values were questioned (Hanscom 1996). Baiting and hounding have played an important role in total harvest since Proposition 2 was rejected. Although not the primary method of harvesting bears, successful hunts using bait and hounds have increased. Stakeholders such as the Idaho Coalition United for Bears and Sportsmen's Heritage Defense Fund worked to have Proposition 2 rejected. Both agreed almost two years later that the issue remained contentious and could easily become a ballot initiative and campaign issue in the future (Press 1998).
One factor of note is that
The intent of this document was
to provide a situation analysis on bear baiting and hounding within the context
of the current ballot initiative in
TITLE: An Act
Prohibiting Certain Bear Hunting Practices
QUESTION: "Do you want to make it a crime to hunt bears with bait, traps or dogs, except to protect property, public safety or for research?"
Many of the arguments used by proponents of the ban include:
§ Baiting and hounding gives unfair advantages to hunters;
§ Baiting and hounding are unethical;
§ Hounding can be harmful to dogs;
§ Hounding can upset private property owners when hounders trespass;
§ Baiting can potentially spread disease among animals;
§ Baiting habituates bears to unnatural sources of food;
§ Baiting can cause sites to smell foul and are like garbage dumps;
§ With baiting, humans can contribute to landscape level redistributions of bears;
§ Baiting and hounding bans will not lead to license sale drop-offs;
§ Baiting and hounding bans still allow for successful hunts;
§ Baiting can increase occurrence of human-bear conflicts, because bears become habituated to bait stations.
Many of the arguments used by opponents of the ban include:
§ Hounding is a challenging sport with dogs bred for working;
§ Baiting and hounding allow for selective harvest;
§ Baiting and hounding assist managers in achieving population goals;
§ Baiting and hounding increase the chances of a successful hunt;
§ Baiting and hounding provide guides and taxidermists with their living;
§ Baiting and hounding can make financial contributions to the economy;
Baiting and hounding ban could lead to large financial
§ Hounding is a traditional harvest technique;
§ Baiting and hounding contribute to long-term detailed biological status of bear populations;
Baiting and hounding ban could cause license sales to drop
because non-residents will not visit
§ Baiting and hounding prevent increased human-bear conflict vis-à-vis increased bear populations
A number of overarching black bear management implications emerge from both sides of the debate:
Ø As wildlife agencies set target bear populations, collect biological data on state populations, mitigate human-bear conflicts, and provide recreational opportunities for hunters, they need to determine the most effective, efficient, and feasible manner with which to achieve management goals. There are many management actions available [that are not discussed in this report]; baiting and hounding have shown to be two viable management tools.
Economic considerations are important. Potential financial effects
of the ban could affect adversely registered
Ø There are potential long- and short-term management impacts associated with the proposed ban, including: financial revenue for black bear management and conservation; hunter-facilitated data collection for biological information; bear population growth or decline; and increased or decreased human-bear conflicts. There are costs and benefits associated with each management impact.
Ø Public concern and input regarding black bear management is important and significant to the wildlife decision-making process. Different stakeholders are involved in the debate; ballot initiatives are becoming an increasingly popular and effective method used by stakeholders to push for policy change.
information presented in this report attempts to be objective, and represents
the best attempt by the author to present and synthesize available information.
It does not reflect the endorsement of any stakeholder group or organization
associated with the current
Meredith L. Gore
Human Dimensions Research Unit
Department of Natural Resources
phone: (607) 255-6578
fax: (607) 254-2299
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