2014-10-23 / Front Page

Court: Maine agency can campaign against bear vote

PORTLAND (AP) — A Portland judge ruled on Wednesday that the state's Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife can use its resources to campaign against a statewide referendum to ban certain bear-hunting tactics.

Justice Joyce Wheeler ruled Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting failed to demonstrate the department's opposition to ban caused “irreparable injury.” The group sought an emergency injunction to halt the department from campaigning. Wheeler also wrote that restricting the agency's speech would be “contrary to the public interest.”

The referendum will ask residents if they want to ban the use of bait, dogs and traps in hunting black bears. Officials with the wildlife department have said the methods are necessary to control the state's bear population of about 30,000.

Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting and allies have said the hunting methods are cruel, habituate bears to humans and are ineffective tools for curbing the growth of the bear population, which has grown 30 percent in ten years. The group has also argued that the department's campaign is an illegal use of taxpayer money.

Katie Hansberry, campaign director for Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting, said the group is considering an appeal. Wildlife department spokesman Mark Latti did not immediately return a phone call seeking comment.

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