- The Washington Times - Thursday, May 24, 2001

The speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates is calling for a black bear hunting season amid increasing human-bear encounters in the western part of the state.
House Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., himself a resident of bear country in Western Maryland, said legislation to create the first bear season since 1953 will be drafted by the end of the summer.
The Allegany County Democrat plans to introduce it before the General Assembly session next year as part of the House leadership package.
With residents complaining of bears destroying crops, stealing garbage and breaking into homes, Mr. Taylor said he is "more than convinced that Maryland needs some kind of a bear season."
The Maryland Sportsmens Association proposed a limited hunt last year, but Maryland Natural Resources Secretary Sarah Taylor-Rogers said the hunting ban would remain in place. The state is studying the problem.
Meanwhile, the bear population has reached about 400, about double the number in 1995.
"Theres concern out there," said Delegate George Edwards, Garrett County Republican. "I think a lot of people think the state doesnt give a heck."
In fact, homeowners and farmers in the area, fighting off a black bear population explosion and weary of waiting for the state to take action, are taking aim at the problem themselves, The Washington Times reported Monday.
"People are taking the 'three S approach," Garrett County Commissioner Wendell Beitzel said. "Shoot, shovel and shut up."
Mr. Beitzel lives in one of the most busy bear locales in the state, along Rock Lodge Road near the tiny town of McHenry and Deep Creek Lake, which attracts city dwellers in the summertime.
Mr. Beitzel has had bears in his trees and in his garage, prompting him to construct an electric fence around his yard. One morning, a bear cub tried to follow him on his morning jog.
"These bears have no fear of humans," he said. "I think if there was a hunt, the bears would develop a respect of humans."
The approach so far taken by the state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is "well just let [a bear] go about its business until it moves on," according to state biologist Steve Bittner.
"We ask people to leave them alone, and just allow the bears to leave the area," he said.
Mr. Bittner tries to educate residents about keeping out of reach any items that are enticing to bears, like sunflower seeds in bird feeders.
When a bear gets to be too much trouble, it is trapped and then frightened away with rubber buckshot and firecrackers.
Hunting, officials said, doesnt ensure the elimination of the bears causing the most problems. Also, surrounding states with hunting seasons still have their share of bear-human encounters.
"Why should it be necessary to hunt?" said DNR spokesman John Surrick. "Hunting is not necessarily an answer to nuisance complaints."
Mr. Taylor also intends to back legislation that would expand hunting to Sundays and reopen a season for migratory Canada geese on the Eastern Shore.
* This story is based in part on wire service reports.


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