MICHAEL A. SAWYERS
CUMBERLAND, Md. (AP) — Maryland’s eighth bear-hunting season in modern times opens Monday in Garrett and Allegany counties and can last six days or be stopped sooner if the Wildlife & Heritage Service believes enough bruins have been harvested.
Bear hunting in Maryland resumed in 2004, after a moratorium of more than 50 years. There have been 343 bears bagged by hunters during the seven hunts.
During the first couple of years, protesters, including some dressed in bear costumes, picketed the check-in station at Mount Nebo in Garrett County. Recent hunts, though, have drawn no such clamor and have seemingly become a part of the wildlife management landscape.
“I think those who objected can see that the hunts haven’t endangered our bear population. They can see that we still have plenty of bears around,” said Harry Spiker, the agency’s bear project leader. “They can see that we continue to pay farmers for crop damage done by bears.”
In fact, Spiker said there is evidence that the bear population is expanding eastward in Maryland.
“We used to get a road-killed bear in Washington or Frederick counties every other year. Then in 2009 alone there were six killed in Washington County.”
Spiker said he hopes that hunters this year will harvest 15 to 20 bears from Allegany County.
“The greater portion of the harvest has always been in Garrett, but we believe the bear population is stabilizing there, but
expanding rapidly in Allegany,” he said.
This year, 260 hunters have been awarded permits. Each may name a hunting partner, but the pair may take only one bear.
The wildlife agency designates a harvest quota range — 55 to 80 this year — and will stop the hunt when the kill reaches some level within. The seasons have been as short as one day in 2004 and as lengthy as five days in 2010. The smallest harvest was in 2004 (20 bears) and the greatest in 2009 (68 bears).
Steven Huettner of Glen Arm plans to hunt bears for the first time.
“I will be hunting near Accident. Since I’ve been applying for a bear tag since 2004, finally drawing a tag was exciting. I have never hunted bears before so scouting and hunting a different animal in a different location is a challenge I am looking forward to,” Huettner said. “That we continue to have such a successful bear season is a testament to the quality of habitat in Western Maryland and the excellent job of managing the population that Maryland DNR does.”
The agency awaits the results — likely to come in January — of this summer’s bear population survey, the first such study in six years. Bears were baited at sites surrounded by barbed wire. The wire snagged hair from the animals, which will be analyzed for DNA and provide the basis for estimating the population size.
An increasing or decreasing population of bruins could alter the manner in which the agency allows hunting, Spiker has said.
Each year a number of bears die on roadways within the state. So far this year, 43 have perished, according to a count maintained by the Times-News. Fifty-two died on roads in both 2006 and 2008.
Information from: Cumberland (Md.) Times-News, http://www.times-news.com/timesnew.html
(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)