Bear Hunting

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Maine Black Bear

Bear Hunting and Trapping Seasons for 2015

  • General Hunting (without use of bait or dogs) - August 31, 2015 through November 28, 2015
  • Hunting with Bait - August 31, 2015 through September 26, 2015 (Bait can be placed beginning August 1, 2015)
  • Hunting with Dogs - September 14, 2015 through October 30, 2015
  • Trapping - September 1, 2015 through October 31, 2015

Black Bear Hunting Regulations

Black bears can be hunted in Maine using a variety of methods during a 16-week fall hunting season opening on the last Monday in August and closing the last Saturday in November. During the first 4 weeks (primarily the month of September), bears can be hunted over bait. Hunters can pursue bears with hounds for six weeks (mid-September to end of October), and can still hunt or stalk bears the entire 16 week season. Hunters are required to purchase a bear permit during the bait and hound season and non-resident deer hunters are required to purchase a bear permit if they want to harvest a bear while hunting deer. Bear hunters can take two bears each fall, if one is taken by hunting and the other by trapping.

Black Bear Trapping Regulations

You may trap a bear in Maine from September 1 to October 31. One cage style trap or foothold snare set at or below ground level may be used to trap bears. A special trapping permit is required for residents ($27) or nonresidents and aliens ($67).

Mandatory Bear Tooth Submission

Attention bear hunters and trappers, you are required to submit a tooth from your bear when you register it.

We have provided hunter check stations with the information for submitting a bear tooth. The store clerk or agent will provide you with a tooth envelope and it is the bear hunter’s responsibility to:

Upper jaw of Black Bear
  1. Fill out the information on the tooth envelope
  2. Remove the first upper premolar located behind the canine tooth on the upper jaw.
  3. Insert the knife or a screwdriver under the front edge of the tooth, and
  4. Pry the premolar out of the socket using the large canine tooth for leverage.
  5. We need the root to estimate the age of your bear. If you broke the root, try to remove the other upper premolar or one of the lower premolars.
  6. Place the tooth in the envelope & seal the envelope.
  7. Give the tooth envelope to the agent/store clerk.
    • The agent/store will mail the tooth to MDIFW.
    • We will post the age of your bear on this website the next summer after we receive the report from the lab.

THANK YOU for your help!

Why is the Department Collecting Teeth from Black Bears?

We are collecting teeth from black bears to help us track the number of bears in Maine and adjust bear hunting regulations when necessary to meet management objectives. Our current management goal is to stabilize the population at 1999 levels (23,000 bears). By knowing the age of the bears harvested, we can estimate how many bears were present in previous years. For example, a 10-year old bear harvested in 2010 was alive for the preceding 9 years and can be added to the population estimate for each year. By repeating this process for each bear harvested, over time we can reconstruct the harvested population. Although this method provides a minimum estimate of the number of bears since bears not harvested arent included in the estimate, it is useful at monitoring whether the population is increasing, decreasing, or stable.

Tooth submission reports

If you harvested a bear during the fall season (e.g. 2013), tooth ages will be posted here the following summer (e.g., August 2014), after we receive the age report from the lab that processes the teeth. We apologize that the age of the bear you harvested is not available sooner; we are working with the lab to ensure more timely reports.

We greatly appreciate the help of bear hunters, check stations, and guides that assisted with providing teeth from harvested black bears. These teeth will help us learn more about Maines bear population to insure our bear regulations are based on the best available science.

2012 Bear Age Summary

During the 2012 bear season, we initially received teeth from 2,143 hunters. For the teeth that arrived late, the age of their bears will be posted to the website later this year. Of the initial 2,143 teeth, the lab was not able to determine the age for 54 bears (identified with an X in the age column) and for 45 bears we were not able to identify the hunter who shot the bear. If you would like to see the age of the bear you harvested in 2012, click this link (2012 bear age report)

Like most hunted black bear populations, older bears made up a smaller proportion of the harvest. In 2012, the average age of a harvested black bear was 3 and the majority of bears (79%) were between 1 and 5 years old. The oldest bear was a 29 year-old female and the oldest male was 21 years old.

Summary of bear age reports (2008-12)

IFW has been working with hunters and hunter check stations to collect teeth from harvested black bears since 2008. Like most hunted black bear populations, older bears made up a smaller proportion of the harvest with 1/3 of the bears less than 4 years of age. Bears are long-lived and every year a portion of the harvest includes bears that reach 20 to 29 years old. The oldest bear harvested in Maine were females between 25 and 29 years of age. The oldest males were between 20 and 25 years old.

  • In 2008, the oldest bear was a 28 year-old female and the oldest male bear was 20 years old.
  • In 2009, the oldest bear was a 25 year-old female and the oldest male bear was 20 years old.
  • In 2010, the oldest bear was a 29 year-old female and the oldest male bear was 25 years old.
  • In 2011, the oldest bear was a 29 year-old female and the oldest male bear was 23 years old.
  • In 2012, the oldest bear was a 29 year-old female and the oldest male bear was 21 years old.

Black Bear Hunting Tips

  • Always ask landowner permission before hunting, setting baits, or starting hounds.
  • Practice with your weapon continuously to maintain proficiency. Bears must be hit solidly in the lungs or heart, rather small targets compared to a bear's large body size.
  • Tree stands are dangerous. Secure yourself with a safety strap. Do not climb with a firearm or bow in your hand; instead, use a haul line after safely strapping yourself in.

Still-hunting/Stalking Tips

  • Bear use dense forests in Maine making it more difficult to hunt bears by stalking. About 2% of hunters are successful still-hunting/stalking black bears in Maine.
  • Hunting near food sources that are "in season" will increase still-hunting and stalking success.
  • Early in the fall, bears are found near clear cuts that produce berries or near agricultural crops such as corn and oat fields or apple orchards.
  • Late in the fall, hunt near sources of beechnuts or acorns.
  • Pre-season scouting can also increase your success rate. Look for tracks, droppings, broken stems, or branches near seasonal food supplies.

Tips for Hunting with Bait

  • Scent control is a must for successful hunting, especially over bait. Wear rubber footwear, keep hunting clothing clean, and avoid wearing it in camp where foreign odors can be picked up. Do not smoke on the stand. Use cover scent or scent eliminating products.
  • Check your bait sites frequently (every 3 to 5 days) to insure that bait is available to bears that visit the site.
  • If possible, increase the frequency of bait checks after a bear has visited your site.
  • Use a call lure (e.g., anise, liquid smoke) to attract bears to your site.
  • Cover your bait (e.g. buckets with lids, large rock) to prevent small animals from stealing bait.
  • Consider working with a registered Maine guide to learn how to be more successful when hunting bears with bait.
  • Success rates vary with availability of natural foods. On average, 30% of hunters that use bait or hounds are successful harvesting a black bear in Maine each fall.

Tips for Hunting Bears with Hounds

  • Hunting with hounds is physically demanding. An exercise program will put you and your dogs in shape to complete a hunt safely.
  • Before releasing hounds consider the location of roads and houses Always ask landowner permission before starting hounds.
  • To avoid conflicts with other hunters, be aware of the location of active bait sites and avoid releasing dogs where hunters are in stands.
  • Consider working with a registered Maine guide or skilled houndsman to learn the tricks of the trade.

Black Bear Trapping Tips

The Aldrich-style cable foot snare has been used for many years by recreational and research trappers to safely restrain bears. There are many variations of this type of foot snare, and many ways to use it effectively. The following may be helpful in ensuring a safe and successful bear snaring experience. In Maine, about 20% of trappers are successful harvesting a black bear each fall.

snare components

Adult bears are powerful animals and this must be taken into consideration when trapping them. A cable that has been kinked, twisted, frayed or otherwise weakened should be replaced. A solid tree of at least 6” in diameter should be chosen to anchor the lead with 2 cable clamps, fastened tightly enough to prevent the bear from sliding the cable up the trunk of the tree. Many bears that are caught in a snare will climb if given the opportunity. To prevent bears from climbing, fasten the cable lead above the tree’s “butt swell” and remove all limbs as high as you can reach with an axe.

The swivel is a critical component of the snare as it prevents the cable from twisting which can weaken it or cause it to bind. To prevent the swivel from being disabled by vegetation, remove green saplings within reach of the black bear (at least 4 feet beyond the end of the closed snare). Also avoid setting a snare where large trees or limbs are inside the catch circle (arc of the closed snare). All these considerations should be double checked before leaving the snare set including a final check of tightness on all cable clamps.

You are required by law to have a stop on your snare that allows a minimum loop size of 2 ½ inches. Closing the loop on a 2.5” diameter soup can is an easy way to position the cable stop. You may want to increase the loop size a little more than 2.5" if you want to avoid catching a smaller bear.

For most snare systems, it is best to stake down the swivel by passing the metal stake on the spring or throw arm through the eye of the swivel and then push the stake into the ground. For best result, pass the metal stake on the trigger side through the eye of the swivel attached to the lead. You may also want to cut a small forked stake to hold the back of the spring firmly in place.

Dig a hole that is deep enough for the trigger to trip properly. Stick pencil sized sticks into the sides of the hole extending to the trigger to help support an overlayer of moss or leaves. Cover the hole with moss or a thick pad of leaves to prevent needles or duff from filling the hole. Conceal your loop, with light material (needles, duff).

snare setup


Finish your set by placing light, dead brush as blocking and stepping sticks placed close to each side of the snare loop to help direct the bears foot over the trigger. You may use a cubby to direct the bear over your set, but a trail set is often more effective, especially if the target bear has established a different trail than many non-target animals visiting the site. It is very common for bears to step in the exact same spots as they approach a bait, developing shallow depressions in the form of a trail. If you can dig your hole in one of these depressions where it is near a substantial anchor tree, you may not have to use blocking. It can be helpful to prep your trap site days before you actually set your snare so the bear can get used to these changes. If you think you have missed the bear you are after, it may not step there again. So you may want to have a backup site prepped and ready to move your snare to.

For a trail set, it is helpful to try and snare the inside foot (the foot closest to your anchor tree as the bear walks by) because of the toed in gate of a bear. You need to allow enough space for the shoulder of a large bear to clear the anchor tree and still step on your target area. Keep the area one step away from the snare on either side free of twigs or bait so that the bear is comfortable stepping there with his outside foot before making the final step onto the false floor and trigger. It is also helpful to set the snare so that the trigger is slightly below the surface of the ground with the loop resting around the rim of the bowl that this creates. Before setting your snare, if possible you should choose relatively level ground with perhaps a slight downhill grade leading into the set.

Another helpful tip to increase your chances of catching a bear by reducing non-target trips is to green stick the trigger. Simply push a green stick (pencil-sized striped maple works good) deeply into the side of your hole and slide it back into the other side of the hole so the stick is just under the trigger and supporting it gently. Try to get about 5-10lbs of back pressure against the trigger. This allows most cubs, coons, and other small animals to pass over the set, keeping the snare set for your target of a larger bear.

The good news is that bears are not that hard to catch; the bad news is they are even easier to miss.