- The Washington Times - Wednesday, October 29, 2008

As bear hunting goes, little old Maryland never will threaten the lofty status of eastern states like Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia - never mind the heavy hitters like Maine and any number of northern tier states.

However, because of complaints from landowners, beekeepers and farmers, a few years back Maryland began an annual bear hunt to “manage” its bear population. According to some of the rural residents of Garrett and Allegany counties, the area the hunt is restricted to, nothing of the kind has occurred.

The state allows the shooting of some bears simply to placate complainers but also makes sure the number is restricted to placate animal rights activists.

All the same, the brief season that ran from Oct. 20 to Oct. 23 produced 56 successful bear hunters.

Compare the 56 bagged bruins with the 2007 totals in Pennsylvania (2,360), Virginia (1,517) and West Virginia (1,807). In 2005, Pennsylvania hunters shot 4,164 bears.

Maryland officials say its “harvest” objective was the removal of 55 to 75 bears. That goal was reached, although I still don’t know why they call the shooting of an animal harvesting. Corn and potatoes are harvested. Hunters aim, shoot and kill. Those are not bad words.

Anyway, the average estimated live weight of the bears taken during the 2008 hunt was 178 pounds. The largest was a 332-pound male shot by Matt McKenzie of Frostburg, Md.

All but 10 came from Garrett County. More than 85 percent were shot on private land, and 59 percent of the hunters lived in the hunt area; 452 hunters participated in the hunt, and 3,278 applied for a permit.

There was a sour note among all this. On the opening day of the bear hunt, the Maryland Natural Resources Police (NRP) charged two Cumberland men with baiting black bears while hunting on private property on Dan’s Mountain near Lonaconing.

Robert Murray Weatherholt, 55, and Robert James Weatherholt, 23, were charged with hunting bears with the aid of bait after NRP officers observed both men apparently hunting in two different baited areas approximately 300 yards apart. The areas in question were baited with donuts and shelled corn.

The maximum penalty is $1,500 for first-time offenders.

Rockfish seasons explained - The striped bass management board of the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission approved Maryland’s request to extend the 2008 and 2009 recreational striped bass seasons. The ASMFC’s vote extended management of the Chesapeake Bay spring trophy striped bass fishery by creel, size and season limits for 2009 and subsequent years until stock assessment determines corrective action is required for the coastal migratory striped bass population.

Maryland regulations include an open season from the third Saturday of April to May 15, when anglers may take one striped bass sized 28 inches or greater, and an open season from May 16 to May 31, when anglers may take two fish 18 inches or larger, only one of which may be 28 inches or greater. ASMFC also supported Maryland’s proposal to postpone the closing date of Maryland’s 2008 recreational striped bass fishery from Dec. 15 to Dec. 31.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday and Wednesday and his Fishing Report Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com. Also check out Gene Mueller’s Inside Outside blog on www.washingtontimes.com/sports.