PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Maine’s black bears have emerged from hibernation and are pawing through garbage cans, birdfeeders and pet dishes, igniting a debate between hunters and conservationists about an upcoming referendum about the state’s bear hunt.

State officials say they have received 44 nuisance bear complaints over the past four weeks. Maine typically sees about 500 nuisance bear complaints in a year.

In November, voters will decide whether to back a state referendum prohibiting bear hunting with bait, dogs or traps. Maine is the only state that allows all three of those hunting methods.

Opponents of the restrictions say the nuisance bear encounters illustrate the need for more bear hunting. Proponents say baiting bears with human food has habituated them to human smells and lessened their instinctive fear of people.