The black bear is the smallest of the three species of bears inhabiting North America (black, brown/grizzly, and polar), has the widest distribution on the continent, and is the only bear living in the eastern United States. Black bears are found in most forested areas from Mexico north to the edge of the tree line in Canada and Alaska. In Maine, black bears are found nearly statewide, but are most common in northern and eastern Maine and are rarely found in the heavily settled southern and central-coastal regions.
Although most black bears are not much larger than humans, their weight can vary tremendously with the season of the year. Bears store body fat during the fall months to supply energy during their long winter denning period, and are heaviest in late fall.
Adult males average 250-600 pounds, and measure 5-6 feet from tip of nose to the tip of their tail. Females are smaller, weighing 100-400 pounds, and measuring 4-5 feet in length. Males stand about 40 inches tall at the shoulder; females seldom exceed 30 inches in height. Bears are compact, with stocky legs, small eyes, short, rounded ears, short curved claws, and a short, inconspicuous tail. The black bear has a straight facial profile and a massive skull. Black bears in Maine are normally black, but they are often various shades of brown to cream colored in western populations, and are even white, and blue-gray in color in coastal British Columbia and Alaska. They have a brown muzzle, and occasionally a white throat or chest patch or "blaze". Bears walk flat-footed, and their broad feet leave 5-toed tracks that sometimes resemble human footprints. Tracks of female bears rarely exceed 4.5 inches in width; males leave tracks up to 6 inches wide.
The fall documents a period when bears are feeding intensively to build fat stores for surviving a winter of fasting. Fall foods are especially important to pregnant female black bears who need sufficient fat stores for fetal development and milk production. The spring represents a period of food stress, as most bears emerge from the den.
Although black bears breed in the summer, fetal development is delayed until early winter, after the female has entered a den. In January and February, female bears give birth to 1-4 cubs inside the winter den. If a female is unable to store sufficient body fat prior to entering the den, the pregnancy is terminated.
Beginning in 1990, a bear hunting permit has been required to hunt bears in September and October. For the first 8 years, Maine residents purchased the majority of permits and permit numbers fluctuated between 10,000 and 11,000 (Table 1). After the spring bear hunt in Ontario was closed in 1999, non-resident hunters became more interested in hunting black bears in Maine. Within a year, non-resident participation exceeded resident participation. By 2002, permit sales peaked at over 15,000. A rise in permit fees in 2003 (resident $5.00 to $25.00; non-residents $15.00 to $65.00) and the down turn in the US economy have likely contributed to declining resident and non-resident hunter participation in recent years.
The Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MDIFW) is charged with managing Maine's abundant wildlife resources. One of our most celebrated and treasured animals is the black bear. Although many people enjoy an abundant bear population, too many bears can create problems for the bears and the people who live with them. Black bear management is a balancing act between maintaining a healthy and abundant population for all to enjoy, and limiting the growth of the bear population so that bear nuisance problems do not cross the line of public tolerance. A big part of managing bear nuisance problems involves modifying human behavior to lessen the number of negative bear/human interactions. This may include advice on taking in bird feeders, handling outside trash, and how to prevent damage to agricultural crops. Each fall, bear hunters enter the Maine woods in hopes of harvesting a black bear. These hunters and the rules that control their methods are the tools that managers use to ensure the bear population is not overharvested and to keep the bear population from "crossing the line".
The Maine black bear monitoring program is a long-term project designed to continually gather data regarding the status of our bear population. The program began as a study in 1975 when Roy Hugie in cooperation with the Department established 2 study areas consisting of 4 townships each - Spectacle Pond (20 miles West of Ashland) and Stacyville (near Patten). Roy compared population characteristics of the bears living in these 2 study areas for his PhD. At that time, the Spectacle Pond area was lightly hunted; whereas, bears in the Stacyville area experienced heavy hunting pressure. Today, hunting pressure is more evenly distributed across the bears' range in Maine.
A total of between 85 and 110 radiocollared female bears are monitored each year in all three study areas combined. Radiocollars are helpful for monitoring black bears because their secretive nature makes them difficult to observe. Radiocollars send out a signal revealing each bear's location in her den as she hibernates under the winter snow. All of our collared female bears are visited each winter in their dens, which allows us to determine the number of cubs born. Because these cubs stay with their mother for 16 months and den with her the following winter, we can also determine how many cubs survive to one year of age (known as yearlings). We tag the ears of all cubs and yearlings to identify them. Female yearlings are equipped with radiocollars, which allow us to follow them throughout their lives after leaving their mothers the following summer.
In 2006 the University sold the multi-media advertising and broadcast rights to all athletic events to Missouri based Learfield Sports. Starting with the fall 2007 sports season, WVOM and WGUY split radio coverage, WGUY carrying men's and women's basketball and select baseball and softball games and WVOM carrying football and hockey broadcasts. After the 2008 fall sports season, WAEI-FM became the flagship for all Maine sports; the rights were transferred again to WKSQ in 2011 (though WAEI's AM sister station remained a co-flagship), before coming back full circle locally to WVOM (Blueberry) and WGUY (WaterFront) in 2013.
They remained stingy upon returning to play in 2021, finishing 16th among FCS teams in allowing 4.72 yards per play while leading the country with a third-down conversion rate of just 22.1%. Surely, that made putting in a call to New Haven a pretty easy choice.
In marking Maine's bicentennial, Maine Calling will look more closely at different aspects of our state's history in the coming year. One such aspect is the history of black people living here in Maine, even from before the state's founding.
Not long ago, Marr was at a family gathering in the coastal town. Bob Marley music played over the speakers. A white man in attendance said aloud that he was glad to get a break from "black" music: "Bob Marley is black," Marr says, recalling his comment to the man with a slight chuckle.
"It made people so uncomfortable to think that black people and white people could be living together in a productive community," said Kate McBrien, who curated an exhibit on the 42-acre island at the Maine State Museum. "For residents, there was so much shame. Family members just completely denied the connection to Malaga. If they could pass for white they did it."
The community seems to have begun with Benjamin Darling, a free black man. In 1794, he purchased Horse Island (now known as Harbor Island), located close to Malaga. Darling's descendants and their families soon settled on numerous islands in what is known as the New Meadows River area.
Darling's granddaughter Fatima and her husband Henry Griffin were the first to build a home on Malaga in the 1860s, according to documents from the exhibit. From there, the black, white, Native American and mixed-race residents consolidated on Malaga. While inhabited, the island was home to a steady population of 40 to 50 residents. Families like the Griffins, the Tripps, the Easons and the McKenneys lived there for three or four generations.
Justin Marr discovered he was a direct descendant of James McKenney, a Scotsman known as the King of Malaga for his standing as head fisherman and his frequent role as spokesman for the islanders. He is believed to have married a black woman.
Things started to come together for Marr, not the least of which was that one of his aunts appeared to have some black features. Even so, Marr's family was understood to be white and so were most of the families descended from Malaga islanders. Only the Tripps of Connecticut married into black families. Not too long after he learned of his Malaga connection, Marr set out to meet matriarch Gloria Tripp, her children and grandchildren. They gathered in a hotel room in Phippsburg and there Marr's life began to change.
What Marr does remember is visiting the island with the Tripp family. While there, he noticed that a couple of the younger family members were hanging on the edges of the gathering, not saying much. He invited the black young men to join him on a walk. Together, they traversed the brush-covered island, past the overgrown footprints of homes their ancestors built, past patches of hops likely used to filter water. They ended up on the shell beach where the trio held an impromptu ceremony, men from different worlds honoring a common past.
We spend a lot of time at Maine magazine thinking about community: how we can support ours, how we can amplify its voices, and how to best celebrate it. As Americans all over Maine and the country voice their support of the black community this week, we wanted to use our platform to promote the incredible black-owned businesses that are so essential to our state. Many are offering food takeout, curbside pickup, and outside dining for safe and responsible patronage. 2b1af7f3a8