Black Bear Task Force -
The Maryland Sportsmen's Association (MSA) believes that science should dictate management decisions on all species of animals. In the case of the black bear, the MSA believes that the species has repopulated Western Maryland to the extent that the time has come to evaluate the methods used to manage the species.
The BBTF was responsible for making recommendations not based on emotion or public opinion, but based on numerical data compiled by the DNR, and by those who consistently come into contact with black bears. The one constant theme during the meetings was that with the increasing demand put on bear habitat by humans and their insatiable need for expansion, and the growing population of bears, the citizens of Western Maryland are coming into direct contact with more bears as each year passes.
According to former Secretary of the DNR Sarah Taylor-Rodgers, "We are seeing some black bears which appear to have lost much of their fear of humans. These bears warrant concern, and the department's rapid-response teams trap, tag and aversively condition these bears. Bears which repeat behavior indicating a loss of fear of humans will either be trapped and relocated or euthanized".
The number of bears in Garrett County in 1991 was estimated to be 79 bears, and in 2000 it was estimated at 179, a 178% increase. If we allow the population to grow at the same rate, we are looking at upwards of 500 bears in Garrett County alone in 2005. The population dynamics are not isolated to this county alone, as bears have relocated to Allegany, Washington, and Frederick Counties. A few have been seen also in Carroll and Baltimore Counties. This is an indication of a viable and free ranging population of bears.
With population growth comes an increase in bear-human related problems, especially nuisance complaints and agricultural depredation. The number of bear/vehicle collisions has risen from 8 in 1997, to over 28 in 2001. The 1992 Black Bear Management plan clearly stated that an increase in bear/vehicle collisions was directly correlated to an increase in the population. The number of bear nuisance complaints has also gone up from 355 in 1997 to a high of 618 in 2000. If this trend continues, the result could very well mean the loss of human life.
The first black bear task force in 1992 recommended hunting of black bears as an option. According to the first report "It has become necessary to develop and implement a management plan for black bears in order to clearly identify management goals and to outline specific management objectives for the next ten years (1992-2001), The two goals 1) to manage the black bear as a native wildlife species in Western Maryland where suitable habitat exists and compatible with other land uses; and 2) to manage black bears in order to provide wildlife recreational opportunity." In response to that report and concerns of legislators, in 1985 black bears were classified as a Forest Game Species. This change in classification would enable implementation of a hunting season as a management tool to control the population.
Hunting is a proven method to control the burgeoning population of black bears in Maryland. Hunting provides the citizens of Maryland with many hours of outdoor recreation, while providing tax monies to local rural counties. The MSA believes that farmers, landowners and beekeepers would be more tolerable with the growing black bear population if: 1) DNR would implement a limited bear hunting season that could be used as a means to control nuisance bears; and 2) Develop a bear conservation plan that would be more sensitive to their losses. As a suggestion, we would propose the following: 1) Open a two day limited bear season in both Garrett and Allegany Counties. 2) Develop a lottery system comparable to the State Park deer management program. Determine biologically, the optimal sustained harvest that each county or zone can support. 3) Develop a non-refundable lottery application fee to be used to fund an improved black bear conservation fund. Included on the application, provide a place for sportsmen and women to give DNR permission to release the name and phone numbers of the lottery winners to those landowners who wish to use hunters to help with nuisance black bear problems.
During the 1998-1999 hunting season Maryland sold 129,505 big game licenses. We believe that it is a fair assumption, evident of our neighboring states, that at a minimum, five percent (6475 hunters) of the hunting community would be interested in applying for a bear hunt in Maryland. A $10 non-refundable application fee for the opportunity to hunt a Maryland black bear could provide $64,750, using the conservative five percent figure, to be used solely to adequately reimburse those who suffer from substantial losses due to black bear damage and to improve Maryland's black bear habitat.
In closing, the MSA is an organization of men and women who value the outdoors and the rich experience one enjoys while communing with nature. In that regard we feel that decisions should be based on science with consideration for those that live with bears on a daily basis. According to part of the current BBTF's mission statement, "While statewide species management is a goal of the management plan, special consideration MUST be given to those areas of the state where citizens are currently living with bears."
All contents (c) 2003 Maryland Department of Natural Resources. All
This page last updated April 01, 2003