Black Bear Task Force -
2000 Population Estimate (DNA study)
Black bear populations have been expanding in western Maryland since the early 1980's. During the summer of 2000, the Wildlife & Heritage Division conducted a black bear population survey in Garrett county and Allegany county from Cumberland west. This population study utilized new technology allowing wildlife managers a more efficient means of estimating a population size of large ranging animals such as bears. Bear hairs were snared at bait sites surrounded by barbed wire, and sent to a lab for DNA analysis. This DNA data was fit into CAPTURE, a well known and widely accepted population modeling computer program used to estimate our current black bear population west of Cumberland. The study yielded an estimate of 166 - 337 (95% C.I.) bears in western Maryland. The Wildlife & Heritage Service (WHS) conservatively estimates an additional 100 bears in the state east of Cumberland for a statewide population estimate of 266 - 437 bears in the state of Maryland.
The next most recent population estimate was conducted in Garrett County in 1991, when a very intensive trap and recapture study took place. In that study, 79 - 167 bears were estimated to be in Garrett County.
Bear Scent Station Survey
The bear scent station survey is another method of monitoring the state's bear population. While this survey doesn't yield a population estimate, it does offer long-term population trend data. This survey is conducted in Garrett, Allegany, and Washington counties in mid July during the bear breeding season.
Bait is hung in trees along existing routes in known bear habitat throughout the region. Eight days later, the bait is checked, and bear visitation rate noted. In 2001, bears visited 52.7% of the sites, an increase from 29.4% in 2000. This represents a significant increase from 1993, when the survey was started. In 1993, the visitation rate was 3.9%. Eight routes in Garrett County and one in Allegany County were surveyed in both 1993 and 2001. In 1993, only two of these nine routes reported bear activity, compared with all nine of these routes in 2001. This would indicate that the black bear population has increased in the areas of these survey routes.
Bear Mortality Report
WHS has been monitoring black bear mortalities in the state since 1981. In 1981, there were two known bear mortalities in Maryland. There were 41 known bear mortalities in Maryland in 2001. This is a 36% increase since 2000, when there were 30 known bear mortalities in the state.
Table 1. Black Bear Mortality in Maryland 1995-2001
Bear Sightings / Sow Observations
WHS has recorded reported black bear sightings in Maryland since the mid 1980's. Bear sightings in Garrett county have become commonplace, and are no longer recorded. However, sightings in other Maryland counties continue to be recorded. Bear sightings in western Maryland are becoming more frequent, and people are becoming accustomed to seeing them. Several sightings have been recorded in Montgomery, Carroll, Howard, Baltimore and Harford counties.
Sightings have even been reported in Anne Arundel and Queen Anne counties. Sightings of sows with cubs are also recorded in Maryland. For the past few years, 20 - 30 different sows with cubs have been reported in western Maryland.
All contents (c) 2003 Maryland Department of Natural Resources. All
This page last updated April 01, 2003