First of Two 2006 Black Bear Hunts Ends Early

By David Noss

WESTERN MARYLAND - The first of two 2006 hunting periods for bears in Maryland has come to a close. This year’s two-part season scheduled for October 23-28 and December 4-9, will allow up to 55 bears to be killed. The October hunt officially closed early on the 24th at 9:00 p.m. as the quota was obtained.

This is the third year that wild bear hunting has been permitted in Maryland since the repeal of a 50 year ban on the activity. According to Karina Blizzard, of the Maryland Department of Resource's (DNR) Wildlife and Heritage Services department, the ban was originally implemented because the Maryland Black Bear population had reached unacceptably low numbers. She noted that poor forestry management practices led to a destruction of the bear's natural habitat.

Blizzard further noted that colonial practices in the early 1900's also contributed heavily to the demise of the black bear. "Bears were considered to be vermin," said Blizzard.

The Black Bear is the only species of bear that lives in Maryland. They exist primarily in Garrett and Allegany counties in western Maryland. However, Blizzard noted that the bears have been moving east. "We now have bears in Washington and Frederick Counties," said Blizzard.

On the first day of the October 2006 bear hunt, Governor Ehrlich came under heavy fire from the Humane Society Legislature Fund (HSLF)--the political action arm of the United States Humane Society. The HSLF wants to unseat Ehrlich during this election because they say he "repealed the 50-year ban on bear hunting and has an overall terrible record on animal welfare issues."

The HSLF is running a TV ad which claims that Ehrlich repealed the ban as "political payback to his buddies at the NRA." The ad shows a dead black bear being hoisted from a pickup truck with ropes that are tied to his four legs. The ad states that Ehrlich repealed the ban even though there are only a few hundred bears in the entire state and "they are killed only for trophies and bear skin rugs."

A DNR representative stated that the bear hunts are allowed in order to stabilize the population. According to the representative, the DNR's biologist performs an analysis to determine the optimum bear population, thus determining the number of bears that can be killed each year. The HSLF spokesperson could not be reached for comment.

The 2006 bear season opened Monday, Oct. 23, one half-hour before sunrise in Garrett and Allegany Counties and closed the following day at 9:00 p.m. The final, official count was forty-one bears killed. The harvest objective for the 2006 bear hunt was 35-55 bears.

The estimated average weight of the bears taken this year was 161 lbs. The largest was a 464 lb. male bear taken by William Corbin of Oakland in Garrett County.

Statistics and trivia for the October 2006 Hunt:

* 41 bears killed
* 39 from Garrett County, 2 from Allegany
* 161 lbs. average weight
* 78% of the bears were taken on private land
* 63% of successful hunters live in the hunt area
* 451 hunters participated in the hunt and 2,402 hunters applied for a permit.
* Any weapon that is legal for deer hunting in Maryland may be used to hunt bears.

In related news, on Monday, October 23, at 10:30 a.m. the Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) charged two Jessup men with baiting black bear while hunting on private property off of Cranesville Road near the Youghiogheny Mountain Resort in Garrett County.

Kendall T. Hayden, 51, and Frederick C. Wieland Jr., 42, both of Jessup, where charged with hunting black bear with the aid of bait after NRP received an anonymous tip from a concerned citizen. When officers arrived in the area they observed Hayden allegedly hunting from a tree stand over a baited area covered in cookies and cakes. The baited area was approximately 40 by 50 feet and 30 to 40 yards from the stand.

A person may not hunt or attempt to hunt black bears by the aid of baiting, or on or over any baited area. Baiting involves placing, exposing, depositing, distributing or scattering of shelled, shucked or unshucked corn, wheat or other grain, salt, or other feed that would lure, attract, or entice black bears to, on, or over any areas where hunters are attempting to hunt them. The maximum penalty for a person found guilty of this offense is $1500 for a first time offender.

Officers seized as evidence Hayden's firearm and issued both individuals citations for hunting black bear with the aid of bait. Hayden was also charged with failure of hunter to wear daylight fluorescent orange. A January 18, 2007 trial date is currently scheduled for both individuals in Garrett County District Court.

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