By Alex DeMetrick

GARRETT COUNTY, Md. (WJZ) — A growing black bear population means more bears are being hunted this week in Maryland.

Alex DeMetrick reports like the bears, the hunt is spreading.

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As Deep Creek Lake settles into autumn, trucks pull in and out of a Department of Natural Resources check-in station carrying dead black bears. There is no restriction on size or age during the annual hunt, but there is a promise.

“What we promised all along–we would never wipe out the bear population with this well-regulated hunt,” said Paul Peditto, DNR.

Nine years ago, when the hunt started, there were 500 bears in Maryland. Now it’s estimated at 1,000, so the harvest quota is up. Thirty bears were taken the first year of the hunt in 2004. This year, between 95 and 130 will be taken as their range has spread from Garrett and Allegany counties east into Washington and Frederick counties.

The goal is to control that growth.

“The hunt’s achieving that for us. It’s slowing the growth but the bear population continues to grow,” Peditto said.

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But groups opposed to the hunt see that control as unnecessary.

“We’ve heard that argument time and time again from DNR but we have to look to the land mass of Western Maryland. It’s a huge land mass for these bears,” said Joe Lamp, MD Votes For Animals.

Only bears seeking more room are now being spotted in central Maryland backyards. Because of crop damage, farms have become hunting grounds.

“He took a hard right and went up to the edge of the cornfield and I was about 80 yards away and took a shot,” said hunter Dave Buckingham.

Some of the killed bears have crossed paths with people before, ending up in traps following crop and property damage.

“The bear that gentleman took is a prior nuisance bear we captured. This is a hunt that directly targets some of the problem bears,” Peditto said.

Hunters aren’t the only ones taking black bears. According to DNR, 50 bears have been hit and killed by cars during the past year. That’s about half the number being hunted.

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