AR-News: Maryland plans first bear hunt since 1953

jim robertson wolfcrest at
Sat Nov 29 22:59:11 EST 2003

Maryland plans first bear hunt since 1953

By David Dishneau
Associated Press — Oct. 13, 2003

The state will hold its first black bear hunt since 1953 next fall, 
targeting about 30 animals in far Western Maryland, a top wildlife manager 
said recently.

Wildlife advocates, meanwhile, promised a fight in the legislature and 
possibly the courts to block what they called a "trophy hunt."

Paul Peditto, director of the Department of Natural Resources' Wildlife and 
Heritage Service, said DNR Secretary C. Ronald Franks approved 
recommendations from a state task force to allow regulated bear hunting and 
permit farmers to shoot crop-damaging bears.

He said the administration probably will ask the General Assembly to end a 
novel Black Bear Conservation Stamp program implemented in 1996 that never 
has raised enough money to compensate farmers for crop damage.

"We know that we need to add more lethal control to our management 
strategies," Peditto said. Regulated hunting is "the most cost-effective and 
the most time-efficient means of managing wildlife species such as the black 
bear," he said.

Hunting permits would be distributed among applicants by lottery, and 
hunters would be encouraged to kill nuisance bears identified by cooperating 
landowners and the DNR, Peditto said.

Crop-damage permits would be reserved for "extreme circumstances where all 
other methods have failed," he said.

The hunt authorization follows more than a decade of debate over an 
increasingly troublesome Maryland bear population that has grown from an 
estimated 12 in 1956 to about 400 statewide, concentrated mostly in the 
mountains of Allegany and Garrett counties.

Peditto said the hunt, tentatively planned for late September and early 
October, would be aimed at reducing the estimated population of 300 bears 
west of Cumberland by 10 percent.

Wildlife advocates attacked the plan as a politically motivated "trophy 

"Gov. (Robert) Ehrlich has quickly established himself as the worst governor 
for animals in Maryland's recent history," said Wayne Pacelle, a senior vice 
president of the Washington-based Humane Society of the United States.

Pacelle vowed to "pursue every responsible means" of stopping a bear hunt, 
including protective legislation in the General Assembly. He said the DNR's 
action lends urgency to such a measure, which failed to pass this year.

Lawyers for The Fund for Animals are considering filing a lawsuit to block a 
hunt, said Michael Markarian, president of the Silver Spring-based group.

"We're going to call them out on the carpet and make sure that Maryland 
citizens understand this is a trophy hunt," he said. "It's a recreational 
opportunity for a handful of people that want bearskin rugs for their living 

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