Study of bear hunt by state could result in season next fall

Event ended after 1 day

22 animals were killed

October 27, 2004|By Tom Pelton | Tom Pelton,SUN STAFF

MOUNT NEBO WILDLIFE MANAGEMENT AREA--Taking stock of Maryland's first bear hunt in 51 years, which ended after only one day, the state's top bear biologist said he is looking ahead to the possibility of another hunt next fall.

"I see no reason why we wouldn't implement a hunt next year," Harry Spiker said. "The hunt went off without incident. But that's no surprise. Hunting remains a very safe sport."

Twenty-two bears were shot on the first day of the weeklong hunt, causing the state to end it Monday night. Spiker said the surprisingly large number brought in within 24 hours by the 200 licensed hunters reinforces the notion that the bear population is robust in Western Maryland.

FOR THE RECORD - An article in Wednesday's editions incorrectly reported the number of black bears killed in Monday's hunt. Twenty dead bears were counted at the state check-in station, according to a spokeswoman for the state Department of Natural Resources.
The Sun regrets the error.

Before the state schedules a hunt for next year, it will study this season's results, Spiker said.

All but one of the bears were from Garrett County, including the largest, a 496-pound male shot by a 16-year-old. It required eight people to drag it out of the woods. The average weight was 178 pounds.

Eighty percent were shot on private land, either farms or woods, and the rest on public property, Spiker said.

Half of the successful hunters lived in the same areas of Garrett and Allegany counties where the bears were shot, Spiker said. All but two of the hunters who bagged animals Monday were Maryland residents; one was from Pennsylvania and another was from Iowa.

The state authorized the first bear hunt since 1953 because bear populations in the region have more than doubled during the past decade, with about 500 in Maryland. Resurgent forest growth and hunting bans helped bears thrive to such an extent that the once-endangered species has become a garbage-eating pest in Western Maryland.

The state Department of Natural Resources had set aside two weeks -- Monday through Saturday, and Dec. 6 through Dec. 11 -- for hunters to kill 30 bears this year.

By 6 p.m. Monday, hunters brought in nine bears to state check-in centers in Garrett and Allegany counties, where biologists weighed and measured the animals. It appeared at the time the hunt would continue for several more days, state officials said.

But eight more bears were brought in after 6 p.m., prompting a late-night decision to call off the hunt so that the quota wouldn't be exceeded the next day, Spiker said.

Ray Givens, president of the Washington County Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs, said he thought the event was well run. He said the sportsmen he talked to were not angry that the season was called off after one day.

Pierre Grzybowski, coordinator for the Silver Spring-based Fund for Animals, said he is thankful that the state called off the hunt early and didn't allow it to continue until 30 or more animals were shot.

"It's sad that 20 bears were killed, but we're glad the hunt's over," Grzybowski said. "We're looking forward to educating Maryland residents to coexist with bears, so they don't feel a need to have another hunt next year."

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