Officials with the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife say some members of its staff have received "troubling" correspondence, which has been turned over to state and federal authorities.
"The specifics of what this troubling correspondence says is something we're keeping to ourselves." says Maine Department of Public Safety spokesman Steve McCausland. "State police are now in possession of them and are looking as to who received them."
McCausland would not discuss the contents of the correspondence, but according to an IF&W memo to staff members, the letters were described as "specific to" November's bear hunting referendum. That's Question 1 on the ballot, where voters will decide whether or not to ban certain controversial bear hunting practices, such as baiting and hounding with dogs. A yes vote would ban those practices.
Some Maine wildlife officials have recently come under fire from supporters of Question 1, for publicly endorsing the opposite side, and appearing in No on 1 material.
Although the nature of the letters remains hidden from the public, according to a report in the Portland Press Herald, Wildlife Division Director Judy Camuso arrived at a bear hunting ballot issue forum on Friday with an armed guard. Meanwhile, Wayne Pacelle, President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, a vocal sponsor of the Yes on 1 campaign, remarked that he also frequently receives threats over his positions on animal welfare, and that it's not easy to tell how "credible" those threats are.
But wildlife officials and opponents of Question 1 are taking the alleged threats seriously.
"It is deplorable that Mr. Pacelle would be so nonchalant about such a serious safety concern for the tremendous people at the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife," responded James Cote of the Maine Wildlife Conservation Council, a pro-hunting group. "We would ask him, and the entire Yes on 1 campaign to denounce these and any future threats. This should not, and will not be tolerated- period.”
McCausland of the Maine State Police says the focus now is on trying to determine what the intent of the troubling letters was.
"Although they're troubling, there's no indication that anyone's in danger." he said.