PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — A Portland judge says the state's Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife can use its resources to campaign against a statewide referendum to ban certain bear-hunting tactics.

The Portland Press Herald reports Justice Joyce Wheeler ruled Wednesday that Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting failed to demonstrate the department's opposition to ban caused "irreparable injury." The group sought an emergency injunction to halt the department from campaigning. Wheeler wrote that restricting the agency's speech would be "contrary to the public interest."

The referendum asks residents if they want to ban the use of bait, dogs and traps in hunting black bears. The wildlife department says the methods are necessary to control the state's bear population of about 30,000. Mainers for Fair Bear Hunting argued that the department's campaign was illegal.