Black Bear Task Force -
Regulated hunting is the traditional wildlife management tool of choice used in many states to maintain bear populations at an acceptable level while insuring the continued viability of this charismatic species. Probably the most challenging issue involving bear management in Maryland surrounds the question "Should bears be hunted." Although the 1992 black bear task force and more recently the Governor's appointed Wildlife Advisory Commission have both recommended bear hunting, it has been difficult to gain political support for bear hunting partly because less than 3-percent of Marylanders are hunters in this predominately urban state.
As Maryland's black bear population has expanded, many citizens have expressed interest in them and appear to value black bears. However, relatively few citizens fund wildlife conservation programs in this state. In my opinion most citizens do not realize that the primary funding source for wildlife management in Maryland comes from hunter dollars, i.e. hunting license fees and federal excise taxes on sporting arms and ammunition. I offer it is time to take a hard look at existing funding mechanisms for wildlife management in Maryland and develop alternative funding that lessens the burden on the licensed hunter. All the people own wildlife not just the hunter who has a long history of being a wildlife conservationist. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is entrusted with being the steward of Maryland's wildlife resource for the benefit of all.
As a former wildlife program manager with the DNR, I witnessed the Wildlife and Heritage Service invest increasing amounts of human and financial resources in managing black bears. I often commented that relatively speaking, bears were one of the more expensive wildlife species to manage. Because of DNR's limited resources, increasing bear management costs has resulted in decreasing attention given other important wildlife conservation programs, e.g. public land wildlife habitat management in western Maryland.
Maryland's wildlife programs continue to depend primarily upon hunting license income and federal excise tax dollars. With a small percentage of Marylanders as hunters, it is not possible for hunters to fund all of the wildlife work we need to do. DNR's wildlife program has experienced declines in operating dollars and staffing during a time of growing interest in wildlife and in the demand for DNR to resolve ever increasing conflicts between people and wildlife. The State of Maryland needs to find ways to bring all Marylanders into the mainstream of conservation work and funding. Whether we hunt bears or not, the future of bears and other wildlife species will be more secure if Maryland develops a wildlife conservation program formulated for and funded by all the citizens of this state.
I support the recommendations of the black bear task force. If DNR ultimately decides that bear hunting is not an appropriate tool for Maryland, then I suggest that hunter dollars no longer be used as the primary funding source for this program. Further, I recommend that this funding issue be used to promote alternative wildlife funding on a larger scale.
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This page last updated April 01, 2003