Hunters from across the state are gearing up for the start of the 2014 bear hunting season, which is slated to begin on Monday, August 25th. 

 

Maine boasts one of the largest bear populations in the United States at over 30,000 bears. As a result, Maine has one of the longest hunting seasons in the country, stretching from the end of August to after Thanksgiving.

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Department bear biologists expect bait hunters to do well this year as the availability of many natural foods has been delayed or are in low supply due to the cool, wet spring. Over a span of 40 years, Maine’s bear study has shown that not only does the availability of natural foods drive bear cub survival and bear birth rates, but it also directly influences when bears den for the winter, as well as hunter success rates. In poor natural food years, hunter success is higher than in years when natural food is abundant.

Availability of natural foods also fuels nuisance bear complaints. In 2013, when there was a good natural food crop, nuisance complaints dropped to 311, well under the five-year average of approximately 500 complaints per year. This year, due to poor natural foods, nuisance complaints have increased to over 600.

Maine’s bear hunting season is divided into three segments. Hunters can hunt bears with bait from August 25 to September 20; hunters can hunt bears with dogs from September 8 through October 31; and hunters can still hunt or stalk from August 25 through November 29. The trapping season runs from September 1 through October 31. You are allowed to take up to two bears during the year; one by hunting and one by trapping. Over 90% of the bear harvest occurs during the first four weeks of the season when hunters can use the traditional methods of hunting with dogs and baiting.

Maine is one of 32 states that allow bear hunting. In the 32 states that allow bear hunting, nearly three-quarters of the states (23) allow either hunting with dogs, bait or both.

Since 2004, Maine’s bear population has increased by over 30% 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.

Even with the lengthy bear season, only about 25% of all bear hunters are successful. By contrast, 72% of moose hunters, and 32% of turkey hunters were successful last year. Deer hunters who hunted last year with an Any Deer permit had a 58% success rate according to surveys; while without an any-deer permit, deer hunters had an 18% success rate. Historically, deer hunters success rates are in the 15% range.

Last year, with over 10,000 hunters purchased permits to hunt bear, and 2,845 bears were killed.

Hunters must have a bear permit in addition to a big game hunting license to hunt bear in Maine. Bear hunting is most popular and bear populations are the densest in the northern and downeast regions of the state.