Maine Bears’ ‘Fat and Healthy’ Status Proves a Problem for Hunters

by Amy Myers

The key to success in hunting any animal comes down to timing, patience, understanding of the species and a bit of luck. Bear hunters may need a little more of that last component. This bear season is going to be a tough one.

Maine’s annual bear season begins on August 28th with Youth Day, followed by the regular season which lasts from August 30 to November 27. With just a few days left before the season begins, bear hunters are studying the creatures’ habits to figure out how to best prepare. The legal techniques bear hunters can use are baiting, dogs, trapping and stalking. According to Maine biologists, hunters within the state might want to rethink using bait tactics for this season.

If you’ve noticed that the farmer’s markets have had plenty of berries to sell this summer, you’re not the only one. The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife reported that the state has seen a plentiful berry and nut season, which means the bears have been gorging themselves. For those unfamiliar with the ways of bear hunting, this may seem like great news. With lots of natural resources for food sources, the bears will be “fat and happy” before the season starts. While this is true, the bears will also be much harder to hunt.

Biologists Report Deer Hunters May See More Bears

During a more sparing berry and nut season, bears are more likely to look for manmade sources of food to supplement their diet. That’s why some summers, there are more cases of bears foraging in trash cans, homes and vehicles. The hungrier they are, the more willing bears are to seek out atypical sources of food.

It might seem odd that these creatures are so picky about their food. Food is food, right? That might be the case for raccoons, but, according to Maine biologists, not for bears.

“They’re always going to prefer natural food over human sources of food, including bait,” said Jennifer Vashon, a state black bear and Canada lynx biologist. “In a really good food year, we typically see a reduction in harvests.”

As a result, bear hunters may see less of the species than past years since the bears won’t have much reason to leave their dens. This is especially true for hunters using bait tactics as the bears won’t have any need to search for outside sources of food.

Conversely, deer hunters might need to prepare for an encounter during the fall firearm season, October 30 to November 27.

“When natural foods are out, they stay out longer,” Vashon said. “We could see more opportunity for people seeing a bear while hunting deer.”

Although this might be disappointing news for bear hunters now, the bears’ plentiful food sources promise a larger, healthier population in future seasons.