PENOBSCOT, Maine (NEWS CENTER) -- What started as a bear in a bird feeder has grown into a bear of an issue between a Penobscot man and members of the Maine Warden Service.
Martin Johnson called the Warden Service to report a nuisance bear in his backyard after several episodes in May and June.
Johnson said the bear destroyed bird feeders and feeder poles, stole seed, dented garbage cans, and toppled over his grill.
When he told the Warden he called in a friend with a hunting permit to shoot his bear, the Warden's response surprised him.
"I was told not only no, I could not shoot the bears at that time, because I was feeding the bears, I was baiting the bears," said Johnson, "and if I shot one, I would be taken to jail."
According to Lt. Dan Scott with the Warden Service, Johnson's actions do not fit the definition of "baiting bears."
Scott said the perpetrator has to put out food with the intent of feeding the bear to hunt it to meet that definition.
Scott further explained that under Maine law, a person can legally shoot a bear if it is threatening the person or damaging property.
Otherwise, it is a crime to shoot a bear without a permit out of season, punishable by 3 days in jail and a $1,000 fine.
But he said Johnson's case does not meet that exception to the rule.
"A bear just pulling down a bird feeder and bending a bird feeder pole isn't really considered destroying property beacuse we've already identified that as the food source," said Scott.
To that, Johnson points to all of his other damaged property, including the trash cans and grill. He says this gives him license to take action.
"I like to feed the birds, I'm going to continue to feed the birds, and if the bear gets anywhere near my house again, guess what? I guess they'll have to take me to jail."
Johnson said the Warden who threatened to arrest him has since apologized, but he would like to see more happen.
"The state's got a problem. Nobody's hunting them anymore, they're overpopulated," he said. "They either got to mvoe them, or let people come in here and hunt them."
There are several safety precautions to take if you come across a bear:
- Evaluate the level of danger it poses. Some bears are just passing by
- Refrain from feeding the bear. Bears will return if a food supply is present
- Do not approach the bear to "take a closer look"
- Call officials for help.
The Maine Warden Service can be reached at: (207) 287-8000