Famous talk show host Bill Maher endorses referendum to ban bear baiting

While visiting Portland to perform his stand-up act at Merrill Auditorium this weekend, famous comedian and television host Bill Maher issued a statement in support of the referendum to ban the use of bait, dogs and traps to hunt black bear in Maine, according to a press release issued today by Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, the group leading the pro-referendum campaign.

Maher offered the following statement, according to the press release:


Courtesy of Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting. Bill Maher

“I can’t believe in Maine there are people who put almost 7 million pounds of rotting food, pizza and jelly donuts in their woods each year to lure bears to a bait site, trap them with cruel wire snares and then kill them at close range. How can you call that hunting? That is nothing but an execution. That is almost 70 million pounds of garbage in the last decade alone. Being the only state in the entire country to continue all three of these inhumane hunting practices – I’d say it’s time for a change. Mainers, vote YES on Question 1 and replace those millions of pounds of garbage with the millions of dollars the state will make from tourists going to Maine to see the pristine woods – not garbage dumps.”

While it’s impossible to know exactly how much bear bait is used by hunters annually in Maine, Bill Nemitz of the Portland Press Herald estimated the amount to be around 6.9 million pounds in a March 23 story. Nemitz arrived at the number by multiplying the amount of bait used per bait site by one Maine outfitter (P.B. Guide Service of Somerset County) with the number of bears taken by bait in 2012 (2,613), then multiplying that by two, based on a “widely accepted ratio of two bait sites for every bear taken.” Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting rounded the number up to 7 million to describe to voters the amount of bear bait being placed in the woods of Maine each fall.

To learn the specifics about the bear hunting practices currently allowed in the state of Maine, including the use of foothold snares to which Maher alluded, visit the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife webpage on bear hunting laws and regulations at www.maine.gov/ifw/hunting_trapping/hunting/bear.htm#season.

Maher, as talk show host of “Politically Incorrect” on Comedy Central (1993 to 2002) and “Real Time” on HBO (2003-present), has addressed a wide variety of political issues of the years, earning 23 Emmy nominations. He has also written a number of bestselling books, including “True Story” and “When You Ride Alone, You Ride with Bin Laden.” And he’s been performing stand-up comedy since 1979.

Maher is a longtime supporter of PETA — People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals — the largest animals rights organization in the world. In fact, in 2006, he did a segment called “New Rules for Animals” on his show in celebration of PETA’s 25th anniversary.

While PETA is not involved in the Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting campaign, another large animal rights group is: the Humane Society of the United States. HSUS almost entirely funds the pro-referendum campaign, based on documents filed to the Maine Commission on Governmental Ethics and Election Practices.

Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting is a coalition of state and national groups, including environmental organizations, animal shelters, animal welfare groups, veterinarians, community leaders and independent biologists. The group encourages Mainers to take vote “yes” on Question 1 on Maine’s Nov. 4 ballot. To learn more about their stance, visit fairbearhunt.com.

Opposing the referendum is Save Maine’s Bear Hunt and Management Programs, which is endorsed by numerous national and state wildlife and hunting organizations including the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine, the Maine Professional Guides Association, the National Rifle Association and the Maine Tourism Association. In addition, all 2014 candidates for Maine governor and the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife stand in opposition to the referendum. To learn more about the opposition, visit savemainesbearhunt.com.

Aislinn Sarnacki

About Aislinn Sarnacki

Aislinn is a Bangor Daily News reporter for the Outdoors pages, focusing on outdoor recreation and Maine wildlife. Visit her main blog at actoutwithaislinn.bangordailynews.com.