By Patrick Whittle, The Associated Press
PORTLAND, Maine - Opponents of a ballot initiative to ban the hunting of bears with bait, dogs and traps are declaring victory in Maine. But supporters of the ban say the referendum is too close to concede.
Animal rights advocates and others collected signatures to force a statewide vote Tuesday on the proposal, which they said would have eliminated cruel hunting practices. Hunting groups, outfitters and the state Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife campaigned hard against the referendum.
Bait is typically sugary human food such as doughnuts and accounts for about four-fifths of the state's bear hunt. Had the initiative passed, hunting with so-called fair-chase methods would have remained legal.
Maine's bear population is up about 30 percent from 10 years ago. State wildlife officials say the hunting methods are needed to control population.