Maine game warden Kris MacCabe, star in the Animal Planet TV show “North Woods Law,” discusses why the Maine Warden Service is opposed to Question 1, a referendum to ban bear baiting, in a video posted Tuesday morning by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.
Question 1 on Maine’s Nov. 4 ballot will read: “Do you want to ban the use of bait, dogs or traps in bear hunting except to protect property, public safety, or for research?”
In the video, MacCabe, on behalf of the Maine Warden Service, spoke in opposition of the referendum. Drawing on his personal experiences as a hunter and game warden, MacCabe discusses why he believes these three methods of hunting are sporting and necessary to keep the bear population at a “manageable level.”
MacCabe’s video is a part of a video series being produced by the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife in an effort to communicate to the public why the MDIF&W is against the ban. So far, the series also includes testimonies by state biologists Judy Camuso and Jennifer Vashon. All of the videos are posted on the department’s website.
The BDN contacted MacCabe Tuesday afternoon for comments about the video.
“We’re the ones that protect the wildlife in the state of Maine,” said MacCabe in the phone interview. “We want to reach out to the public as much as possible to let them know that these are the three most effective methods we have for hunting bears and controlling the bear population in the state of Maine. We feel our role is to communicate to people the impact this referendum could have.”
The group leading the campaign in support of the referendum, Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, call bear baiting, hounding and trapping “cruel and unsporting practices.” MacCabe disagrees, stating that bear baiting takes a lot of work.
“I’ve actually baited bears numerous times, and I’ve only harvested one bear myself,” MacCabe said. “Two seasons, I baited bear and never even had a bear come into my bait. It’s not as easy as it sounds.”
In the video, MacCabe points out that it takes an average of 15 days for a hunter to kill, or “harvest,” a black bear in Maine, and that’s with the ability to use bait, hounds or traps. Furthermore, only one in four bear hunters in Maine are successful each season.
MacCabe, echoing the predictions of state biologists, said that if the referendum passes, the state’s bear population will climb and game wardens will be responding to more bear nuisance complaints. He also believes these bear-human conflicts will become more severe.
So far this year, the Maine Warden Service has received 600 bear complaints, and in 2012, the service had a record of about 870 complaints, MacCabe said.
“I had an experience in the town of Jay where there was a bear near the school taking down someone’s bird feeder,” MacCabe said. “And when I got there, the bear was actually running through the parking lot of the school, between busses, at around 2 o’clock, when kids were getting out of school.”
The local police were on scene, and the bear eventually ran off into the forest without causing any harm.
“We’re the ones that respond to those complaints,” MacCabe said. “Even though we’re up to 600 this year, that’s low for the number of bears we have — about 30,000. Other states have a lower bear population and more conflicts because they’re more densely populated [with people].”
MacCabe said he’s aware that many people know about him from his role on “North Woods Law,” and that he’s happy to use that “celebrity status” to reach out to people about the referendum.
“Through the show, we’ve shown people all kinds of different things Maine game wardens do,” MacCabe said.
For all you “North Woods Law” fans, MacCabe said that the wardens just wrapped up filming Season 2, the second half of which is scheduled to air this fall.
“I think they’re talking about coming back and taping another season,” MacCabe said. “Things sound pretty good with ‘North Woods Law.’ We had a pretty busy summer here in the state, and we’re looking forward to a busy fall.”
“I really enjoy talking to the kids and getting the fan mail from kids and going out and doing public speaking engagements,” he added. “And with everything going on right now, it seems like a good platform to talk to people.”