Goodmans Shut Down Maine Bear Cam

The Goodman family of Patton have shut down their very popular Maine bear cam, unable to raise the necessary funding to keep it going. It’s hard to believe someone in Maine didn’t see the value of 280,000 pairs of eyes looking at something in Maine.

The Wildlife Research Foundation was created by the Goodman family to excite people – especially children – about wildlife, to educate them about the importance of scientific research and management of wildlife and wildlife habitat, and to raise money for wildlife research in Maine.

In the fall of 2011, recognizing a real need for wildlife research and science-based wildlife management in Maine, the Goodman family, the owners of North Country Lodge in Patten, brought a proposal to Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife to raise money for wildlife research. They hoped to place a live camera in a Maine bear’s den, to attract and educate viewers who would then donate to science-based wildlife research.

The Goodmans spent tens of thousands of dollars of their own money to establish the Wildlife Research Foundation, and a Memorandum of Agreement was signed in October 2011 between the Foundation and the Department outlining the organization and goals of the Foundation and including a promise that the Department would help with marketing the live camera and the Foundation’s website.

A press release was issued by the Department and Commissioner Chandler Woodcock emailed a letter about the project to everyone on the Department’s GovDelivery list. DIF&W wildlife biologists Randy Cross and Jennifer Vashon played key roles in the project. They helped locate a female bear, dubbed Lugnut, with two cubs, for the webcam.

The webcam was an immediate success. A stunning 280,000 individuals logged onto the website in just 10 weeks, including entire classrooms in several states and 7,000 people in Japan. Many watched Lugnut and her cubs every day until they emerged from their den last spring.

While Lugnut won a worldwide audience, those viewers were not converted to donors. But everyone associated with the project judged the first year a great success, putting the Foundation in position to begin the educational and fundraising parts of the project in year two.

Unfortunately, despite a mighty effort, the Goodmans were unable to find funding for a second year of the bear cam and the other goals of their foundation.

I volunteered to help the Goodmans with two grant applications earlier this year, and am very disappointed that we were not successful with those applications. Especially perplexing was the lack of support from Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, where Commissioner Chandler Woodcock, a member of the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund Board, failed to support the Goodman’s MOHF grant application.

Despite the failure of DIF&W to support the bear cam, the Goodmans had high praise for the agency’s Randy Cross and Jennifer Vashon, who provided a great deal of hands-on help last fall and winter.

In a statement issued today, Burt Goodman said, “I regret to report that the Wildlife Research Foundation will not be able to continue with the “Wild Bear cam” due to lack of funding. We applied for several grants which included the Wal-Mart Foundation, Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund and LL-Bean. Unfortunately we were not successful in obtaining any of these grants.  The Wildlife Research Foundation will be shelved and put on hold until there is funding to continue in the future.

“Through a great deal of effort the Wildlife Research Foundation reached out to 280,000 first time viewers around the world in less than a year educating people to Maine’s wildlife and showcasing Maine to the world. From children in the classrooms to Japanese across the world, people were able to witness a wild Maine Black Bear give birth to her two cubs for the first time on real time live streaming video. Through this effort we were hoping to raise funds to support the scientific community in much needed areas for example the  whitetail deer, black bear etc.

“We believe ‘before you can manage the wildlife, you must understand the wildlife you manage,”said Goodman. “The future of Maine’s wildlife depends on long term wildlife studies,” he concluded, thanking “all who helped in this effort.”

The Goodmans had an ambitious plan for the bear cam this winter. In their foundation’s MOHF application, they stated that “the goal this year is to build on the success of the first year of the project by engaging, educating, and activating viewers in wildlife conservation work. Specifically, we will: 1) establish a bear cam on the website for the second winter; 2) expand the educational function with newsletters, additional website information (including creation of a blog) about wildlife research and habitat and ways viewers can contribute to both scientific research and habitat enhancement and protection, and a special children’s section; 3) launch a fundraising component aimed at viewers to raise money for wildlife research in Maine; and 4) provide more information to the media to stimulate wildlife news coverage.”

George Smith

About George Smith

George stepped down at the end of 2010 after 18 years as the executive director of the Sportsman’s Alliance of Maine to write full time. He writes a weekly editorial page column in the Kennebec Journal and Waterville Morning Sentinel, a weekly travel column in those same newspapers (with his wife Linda), monthly columns in The Maine Sportsman magazine, two outdoor news blogs (one on his website, georgesmithmaine.com, and one on the website of the Bangor Daily News), and special columns for many publications and newsletters. George also hosts, with Harry Vanderweide, a TV talk show called Wildfire, now in its 13th year and focused on hunting, fishing, environmental, and conservation issues. The show is owned and produced by Maine Audubon and seen on its website as well as on the Time Warner cable TV station throughout the state.