AUGUSTA, Maine - This past bear hunting season, hunters killed 3,900 bears, lower than the totals in 2000 (3,951) and 2001 (3,903), but up from last year's kill (3,512).
This past hunting season, 95% of the bears were killed using traditional hunting methods that could be banned if this fall's bear referendum passes. Of the 3,900 bears killed, 3,128 were taken over bait (80%), 450 bears were taken by hunters using dogs (12%), 130 bears were taken by trapping (3%), and 192 were taken by unreported methods (5%). The thirteen-week bear season is stretched over a four-month period, beginning on the last Monday in August and continuing until the last Saturday in November.
Maine's bear population has grown 28% since 1990, and is estimated at 23,000 bears. The population currently is stable through the removal of 3,500 - 4,000 bears by hunting each year. The bear kill over the past ten years is as follows: 2003 - 3,900; 2002 - 3,512; 2001 - 3,903; 2000 - 3,951; 1999 - 3,483; 1998 - 2,618; 1997 - 2,300; 1996 - 2,246; 1995 - 2,645; 1994 - 2,243.
Hunters need a permit to hunt bear, unless they are hunting during the last four weeks of the season. The department issued 13,236 bear permits last year, 7,049 to residents and 6,187 to non-residents.
Hunters clearly benefited from Maine's large bear population, conservatively estimated at 23,000 animals. Most bears were taken early in the season, with 3,582 bears (92%) harvested before the end of September. The approximately 175,000 deer hunters afield during November harvested only 76 bears.
Maine's reputation for producing high-quality bear hunting is reflected in the harvest distribution by hunter residency. Visitors to Maine killed 2,715 bears (70%) of the 3,900 bears tagged during 2003. Visitors took most of their bears over bait (86%) and with the aid of hounds (11%). Maine trappers accounted for most of the trapped bears (70%). Males made up 54% (2,132 bears) of the 2003 harvest. Adult bears accounted for 93% (3,637 bears) of the 2003 harvest and age was not reported for an additional 14 bears (<1%).
In 2004, the season will remain similar to those in recent years. Under the current bear season framework, the season begins on the last Monday in August and closes on the last Saturday in November, generally a 13-week period. However, in some years the season is one week longer based on when the last Monday in August falls in the calendar; during 2002 and 2003 the season was 14 weeks. In 2004, the general bear hunting season will return to a 13-week season opening on August 30 and closing November 27. The current bear season framework should result in another harvest close to 4,000 bears in 2004. However, interest in bear hunting may increase this year because of the coming bear referendum, which may result in a harvest that exceeds 4,000 bears.
|Back to News||Home||Print This Story|