Black Bear Task Force -
Appendix C: MD DNR
In January of 1992, the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) released the Black Bear Management Plan. Prior to developing this plan, the Wildlife & Heritage Service (WHS) conducted a series of public meetings across Maryland in an effort to gauge public opinion towards the bear resource in the state. A lot of the issues raised were incorporated into the plan development process.
The black bear is a species that generates serious discussion in western Maryland. Since the development of the 1992 plan, black bears have continued to spread eastward in Maryland. Bear populations also appear to have increased in density in Garrett County. This increasing bear population has resulted in additional concerns being expressed by western Maryland residents, as well as those who are experiencing bears for the first time.
The Black Bear Management Plan reviewed the past history of this species in Maryland. It presented factual information regarding ongoing research activities. It also provided a listing of major goals and objectives, as well as the strategies to be employed to meet these objectives. Following is a summary of the activities that have taken place in an effort to meet these goals and objectives.
Goals - 1992
1) To manage the black bear as a native wildlife species in western Maryland where suitable habitat exists and is compatible with other land uses.
2) To manage the black bear resource for the purpose of providing recreational opportunities for the citizens of Maryland.
Objectives - 1992
1) To promote black bears as an integral part of the ecosystem and to inform the public about ways to avoid problems with black bears.
2) To determine the perceptions, desire, and attitudes of people in Maryland concerning black bears and to enable the public to provide input on the bear management program.
3) To minimize bear-human conflicts by helping the public cope with nuisance bear problems in a manner that will be effective and have minimal adverse impact on the bear population.
4) To promote the hunting of black bears for the purpose of providing quality public recreational opportunities and as a means to manage the bear population at a level consistent with CCC.
5) To estimate parameters that influences the dynamics and ecology of black bear populations in western Maryland.
6) To determine both quantitative and qualitative habitat requirements for black bears in western Maryland and to develop habitat management guidelines for implementation on private lands and particularly state and federally owned and managed lands.
7) To obtain an annual index of abundance of black bears in western Maryland.
8) To develop a simulation model of the bear population in western Maryland and begin collecting data for use in that model.
DNR staff, especially western Maryland field staff, has dedicated a large amount of time to managing the black bear resource since this plan was implemented. Some of these activities have been very successful, and the major accomplishments are listed under each objective. A summary of these activities follows.
Objective 1 - Information and Education
Although the objectives are not listed in any priority order, this objective probably has the largest impact on the status of bears in the state. Informing and educating people about bears can lead to an increased tolerance of these animals. Providing information on ways to avoid or minimize bear-human conflicts would familiarize people with bears, thus reducing the chance of human or bear injuries.
This objective identified different strategies that could be utilized in order to meet this objective. In western Maryland, WHS staff have routinely made public presentations on black bears. These presentations cover basic bear biology, behavior, and nuisance avoidance techniques. Elementary school children have been the primary focus of these presentations, but additional presentations have been made to local civic groups like the Rotary and Lions Clubs, as well as any group that requests such activities.
A standardized slide show on black bears was developed in 1999 and distributed to all of the state parks in western Maryland for use in their campfire programs. Monthly articles about bear biology and activities were written in 1998 and 1999 for distribution to the western Maryland print media. Selected news releases have been distributed to the media to provide additional information on bears. Two Maryland Outdoors segments for MPT were filmed regarding black bears in the state, one in 1994 and one in 1998. Numerous interviews with radio, television and print media have been conducted in an effort to provide information about bears. Black bears have even been the featured topic at DNR's tent at the Maryland State Fair.
Several printed items have been produced for distribution in bear country. The most popular has been "Maryland's Bear Country-Learning to Live with Black Bears," a full color pamphlet that was developed in 1996 and was distributed to anyone experiencing bear problems. It has also been used as a general information tool. Posters have been distributed to rental real estate offices in Garrett County for use in rental properties. These posters explain to renters what they should and should not do to impact bears while visiting Garrett County. Information regarding bears was also distributed to the Garrett County Chamber of Commerce for distribution and display at the new Garrett County Visitors Center.
Workshops were conducted in 1998 with rental real estate agencies in Garrett County to promote the distribution of information to tourists regarding black bear nuisance situations. In addition, a workshop was held in 1998 for Garrett County residents on ways to live with bears.
Objective 2 - Public Opinion Surveys
This objective stated that attitudes of the public needed to be determined regarding black bears and their management. Various meetings have been held across the sate to gauge people's attitudes towards bears. Written and verbal correspondence is received almost daily regarding the management of this species. Letters to the editors of western Maryland papers are monitored to gauge public opinion. Newspaper editorials, articles and outdoor columns are also monitored in an effort to determine the current public opinion.
A statewide public opinion survey on bear management has not been conducted. However, a public opinion survey occurred in 1996, when Garrett County farmers were surveyed regarding bear damage to agricultural crops. This survey was part of the process for the Black Bear Conservation Stamp Program.
The 1995 Bear Task Force looked at financial losses suffered by landowners as a result of bear damage. That group's recommendations were presented at four public forums held across the state. Statewide attitudes towards bears were collected at that time, although the focus of that Task Force was more specific in nature than the broad subject of bear management.
Objective 3 - Nuisance Bear Management Guidelines
This objective stated that nuisance bear management guidelines would be established and implemented in western Maryland. A Nuisance Black Bear Response Plan was developed and implemented in 1996. This plan streamlined DNR's response to nuisance bear situations. It provided guidelines to specific situations, and has been extremely helpful in identifying areas where improvements were warranted. This plan has been revised and updated, resulting in improved efficiency in responding to bear complaints. In Garrett County, a bear response team has been established and is on call 24 hours per day from April through November. In addition, wildlife staff in the four western counties are available to handle emergency bear situations at any time.
Annual meetings and training sessions are held with all the public service agencies in western Maryland (911 centers, local and state police, animal control agencies, etc.) in an effort to provide them with the latest nuisance bear information. These meetings have resulted in a more coordinated response to emergency bear situations, and have expedited bear calls getting to the appropriate DNR agency. In recent years, the meetings have been expanded to include personnel from central Maryland as well.
Objective 4 - Establish a bear hunting season
A black bear hunting season has not been implemented in Maryland. Black bear hunting has not occurred in the state since 1953. In 1995, the Black Bear Task Force recommended to DNR that a limited bear hunting season be implemented to control the bear population and to provide revenue that could be used to reimburse landowners for bear damage. The Task Force=s recommendations were discussed at four statewide public meetings. Comments received at these meetings, as well as written comments, were overwhelmingly opposed to initiating a bear hunting season at that time. The hunting season recommendation was not approved.
In 2000, the Maryland Sportsmen Association presented the Wildlife Advisory Commission (WAC) with a bear hunting season proposal. The WAC reviewed this request, approved it and recommended to the Secretary of DNR that a limited bear hunting season be implemented in western Maryland. The Secretary reviewed this recommendation, and stated that no bear hunting would occur through at least 2002. Public comments were numerous regarding this proposal, and opinion was divided on this subject.
Objective 5 - Bear population dynamics
Black bear population estimates were scientifically determined in 1991 and 2000. The 1991 bear population for Garrett County was estimated to be 79 bears, with a 95% chance that it was between 0-167. In 2000, the bear population from Cumberland to the West Virginia line was estimated to be 227, with a 95% chance that it=s between 166-337. This represents an area larger than that which was surveyed in 1991, but still documents an increase in bear numbers.
Allegany County represented 21% of the study area. Reducing the 2000 population estimate by 21% would provide a minimum population estimate for Garrett County. Using the 2000 data, the bear population in Garrett County would then be 179, ranging from 133 - 270, a 178% increase from 1991. However, bear habitat in Garrett County is of a higher quality than that found in western Allegany County, and bear densities per square mile are higher in Garrett County because of this quality habitat.
Various research to gather biological information on black bears has been done in western Maryland since 1991. Reproductive data has been collected by radio collaring females and tracking them to den sites. Between 1986-2000, 39 sows have produced 114 cubs for an average of 2.92 cubs/sow. Also, these cubs have a 56% survival rate to one year of age. No information is available on survival rates beyond the cub age class.
Several types of data have been collected in an effort to monitor the bear population. All known mortalities are recorded, as are sightings reported by the public. Since 1985, mortalities have increased from 0 to 30 in 2000. An average of 21 bears have died annually from various causes each of the last 5 years.
Sightings outside of Garrett County have also increased. In 1980, 16 bear sightings were reported outside of Garrett County. That has increased to an average of 83 sightings since 1996. Bear sightings have become more numerous east of Allegany County in the last 5 years.
As bear populations have increased, nuisance bear problems have also increased. However, the increase in nuisance complaints cannot be directly related to bear populations. Many factors play into the amount of nuisance complaints, ranging from natural food shortages to human encroachment into bear habitat. Nuisance bear complaints have increased from only a handful in the early 1980s to more than 500 in 2000.
Objective 6 - Identification of habitat requirements
Specific black bear habitat data is readily available from research performed throughout the range of this species. In Maryland, specific habitat parameters were identified by Webster (1994) and Dateo (1997) as part of their Masters programs at Frostburg State University. These research projects not only classified black bear habitat in Garrett County, but also determined seasonal and annual home ranges for radio-collared females. Preferred habitats on a seasonal and annual basis were also determined, and the relationship between females and these habitats were discussed in detail. The total amount of primary bear habitat was identified in Garrett County through this work.
Also, in 2000, a Gap Analysis Program (GAP) was performed to identify potential bear habitat across Maryland. Habitat requirements were identified, and various Geographic Information System (GIS) layers were screened to identify potential bear habitat in Maryland. Only one area outside of western Maryland was identified as containing potential bear habitat. That area includes the Pocomoke State Forest area in Worcester County.
Specific habitat management recommendations have not been formulated. Bears are extremely adaptable, and can utilize any areas that contain large amounts of forestland. Research has shown that bears utilize different areas for den sites, such as brush piles, rock piles, hollow trees, rhododendron thickets and the like. Protective cover and feeding areas depends on available sources, with the adaptability of these animals determining the use of these areas.
Natural food supplies may be the most variable habitat element in western Maryland. Late spring frosts can drastically affect the volume of natural foods like berries and nuts. Acorns are a preferred bear food, and when in short supply, cause bears to seek alternate foods. This will often bring bears, as they search for adequate foods, in closer contact with people. Since acorns are an important wildlife food, the WHS annually conducts a mast survey to determine the amount of acorn production. It is important that this information be maintained on an annual basis, as the trend in acorn production may also be related to cub production (more acorns, more cubs produced). Other mast crops like apples, cherries, beechnuts and hickory nuts are also monitored in an effort to identify food supplies for these forest dwelling animals. Our surveys have determined that acorn production is highly variable, and can go from boom to failure in one year.
Objective 7 - Population trend monitoring
Ideally, an annual index of abundance of black bears is critical to the proper management of this species. However, this is very difficult to determine for large ranging animals such as bears. One promising technique is the bait station survey, which utilizes selected routes that are baited with sardines. This survey is conducted annually in Garrett and Allegany counties. Initially established in 1993, only 3.2% of all bait stations were visited by bears. By 2000, the visitation rate had increased to 24.2%. According to this index, the bear population has increased, but the magnitude of increase cannot be determined from this index alone.
Objective 8 - Population modeling
Specific population models have not been developed. Population estimates have been conducted as noted above. Simulation models can be developed, but not until additional biological information is collected.
The black bear is a species that fosters myriad reactions from people. While it is generally believed that black bears are a wilderness species, it is becoming apparent that bears will also co-exist with human influences. Movement of human populations into more remote landscapes has brought humans deeper into the bear=s world and the resiliency of bears allows them to survive in today=s world.
DNR has been closely monitoring black bears since it became apparent that resident populations had become established in the late 1970s. Specific research has been conducted, and population estimates were calculated using state of the art techniques.
The 1992 management plan set the stage for the last 10 years of work. It=s quite apparent that business as usual may not be warranted in the future. Innovative ideas and cutting edge techniques may be the way of the future for bear management in Maryland. The next 10 years could determine the future of the bear resource in our state.
All contents (c) 2003 Maryland Department of Natural Resources. All
This page last updated April 01, 2003