inFocus - Maryland Department of Natural Resources

Black Bears
New public opinion poll.

Understanding The Issues
Black Bears are getting a lot of attention these days, and it can be difficult to assess fact vs. fiction. The Department of Natural Resources is responsible for managing the Black Bears as well as all the other wild animals in the State. Outlined below are all facts.

In 2004, Maryland DNR implemented a comprehensive 10-Year Black Bear Management Plan. The Plan guides the long-term management of this important resource. The Plan was developed based on scientific management practices and extensive public involvement. In 2002, DNR formed a Black Bear Task Force comprised of citizens from across Maryland. The Task Force was commissioned to review DNR progress on the previous 10-year management plan, solicit input from the public regarding black bear management, and offer management recommendations to DNR for consideration in the 2004 management plan. The resulting 10-Year Black Bear Management Plan will guide DNR in managing the bear population in Maryland through 2013.

Understanding the Black Bear
Black bears are highly intelligent animals. They have the distinction of being the largest land mammal found in Maryland. They live in forested areas, primarily in Western Maryland. Maryland’s occupied bear range includes Garrett, Allegany, Washington, and Frederick counties. Our surrounding states of Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia are also home to healthy populations of black bears. The black bear population in Maryland consists of approximately 600 bears that are primarily located in Garrett, Allegany and Washington Counties.

The good news is that DNR has been successful in its efforts to recover this population to a thriving population. However with a growing black bear population coupled with a growing human population conflicts with humans have increased substantially over the past 10 years.

The Problem With a Large Bear Population
With the increase in the bear population and residential expansion in Western Maryland, there are an ever increasing number of bear / human conflicts. Including a steady rise in the number of bears hit by automobiles. Last year over 41 bears were struck by vehicles.

In 2007, more than 350 black bear nuisance complaints were reported to WHS staff. More than 80 of these complaints were responded to after-hours by the Garrett County Black Bear Response Team.

When DNR receives a call or encounters a nuisance or “problem bear” we follow the tenets of our Nuisance Response Plan. Developed in 1996 and updated in 2003, this plan calls for DNR to assess each individual situation and provide one or more of the following:

  • Technical guidance to the affect landowner
  • Trap and aversively condition problem bears
  • Trap and aversively condition repeat problem bears
  • Chase problem bears with dogs.
  • Euthanize chronic nuisance bears
While some citizens have taken into their own hands to resolve the issue by illegally shooting the bear, DNR has a Black Bear Response team to handle such emergencies. The 6- person team shares the responsibility of responding to all after hour bear complaint calls in Garrett County. Each week 2 team members are on call 24 hours a day 7 days a week from April through November.

Educating the Public
In 1993, DNR launched a comprehensive campaign to educate the public about black bears. Year round efforts include:

  • Working with rental agencies in bear country to assist in educating visitors on bear proofing their vacation home.
  • Working with local municipalities to promote the use of bear proof trash receptacles.
  • Speaking engagements across the state to school groups, community associations, environmental centers and local associations promoting the DNR’s “Living With Black Bears” campaign.
  • Working with individual landowners experiencing bear problems and instructing them on proper ways to discourage bear visits.
  • Working with beekeepers and providing technical assistance including electrical fencing around hives.
  • The Black Bear Education Trunk, which is a teaching resource available to educators across the state, is available through the DNR to all educators.
  • An assortment of literature on bears in Maryland and Living with Black Bears.
  • Providing information to state and local law enforcement agencies on proper protocol for nuisance bear situations.
The message to all of these groups is clear: problems with black bears can and should be avoided. (Learn how to live with Bears)

About DNRs Management Plan
Black bears are an important component of our natural ecosystem. They are considered an umbrella species, and as such have been used by forest managers to monitor forest health. Since black bears use such a diversity of habitats throughout their annual lifecycle, their presence or absence can be used as an indicator to identify a particular component of the habitat that may be missing or degraded.

The 10-Year Black Bear Management Plan will guide black bear management strategies in Maryland through December 2013. The plan will ensure the state’s black bear population is managed based on sound scientific principles and informed public input.

DNR’s proposed hunt is just one of several options that the DNR will use to manage bears of the black bear management plan. Other components include:
  • Additional in-depth studies of the bear population and its habitat.
  • Public attitude surveys to determine changing public opinions on black bears
  • Enhance black bear education efforts across the state.
  • Assist local communities with resolving and discouraging nuisance bear problems.
  • Develop additional funding sources for managing this forest game species.
  • Continue aversive conditioning of bears.
Additionally, the management plan was developed from the recommendations of the Black Bear Task Force, a 12-member group of public and private citizens representing a diverse range of ideological beliefs. In their recommendations, they recommended that DNR have the option to hold a bear hunt to control the bear population.

Facts and Figures

Black Bear raiding a dumpster

Video/Photo Library Video Clips (.MPG format)
Black Bear Video (60 MB)

Who to call For more information on bear-proofing your home or to report a nuisance bear call:
  • Garrett County
    (301) 334-4255
  • Allegany County
    (301) 777-2136
  • Washington and
    Frederick Counties
    (301) 842-2702.