- The Washington Times - Sunday, February 24, 2002

ANNAPOLIS Decades-old hunting prohibitions against black bear hunting and in-season deer hunting on Sunday would be overturned in Maryland under bills the House approved, despite opposition from suburban legislators.
A new permit program, approved on a 102-32 vote Friday, would allow people to kill black bears where they have been shown to be a threat to life or property or in a "reasonably near" area.
"Some human being could be harmed because there's no provision that notice be provided when they come on property," said Delegate Sharon Grosfeld, a Montgomery County Democrat who drew groans at during the debate on Wednesday when she called bears "gentle."
Most "nuisance" bears up from 196 in 1996 to 617 in 2000 have been seen in Western Maryland, particularly in Garrett and Allegany counties. But they increasingly have been seen in the suburbs, including at a hospital in Rockville, in back yards in Bethesda and along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway.
Applicants would have to show that bear activity has threatened the safety or lives of humans or animals or done actual damage on property they own or lease.
To get a black bear kill permit, applicants also would have to demonstrate to the Department of Natural Resources that they used "reasonable preventative measures" to avoid attracting bears.
But Delegate Dana L. Dembrow, Montgomery County Democrat, said he was concerned that the measure did not sufficiently limit who could do the hunting and what they could kill.
"You could take out whole families of bears unlimited bears, unlimited hunters," Mr. Dembrow said.
Pennsylvania, Virginia and West Virginia allow black bear hunts, but the last black bear hunt in Maryland was held for one week in 1953.
Studies show bears are more aggressive where they are not hunted, so a kill-by-permit program will help, argued Delegate Rudolph C. Cane, middle Eastern Shore Democrat.
Maryland law already allows a person to kill a black bear if the animal threatens him directly.
A long-held ban on Sunday hunting would be lifted for deer hunters on the first Sunday of the three-week firearms season in the fall under legislation that passed the House, 93-37.
The Sunday deer hunt would not be allowed in the state's urban wildlife management area, which includes Montgomery, Prince George's, Anne Arundel, Howard and Baltimore counties and the southeasternmost quadrant of Frederick County. There, hunting is restricted to special conditions determined by the Department of Natural Resources.
Adding just that first Sunday to the hunting season in rural areas should significantly reduce the deer population, said Delegate John A. Hurson, a Montgomery County Democrat and chairman of the Environmental Matters Committee, which cut the number of hunting Sundays proposed from three to two.
Hikers, nature lovers and horseback riders have opposed the measure because Sunday has been the only day they deem safe to be near the woods during hunting season.
But Mr. Hurson said the deer population estimated to have reached about 300,000 in Maryland where a sustainable level is closer to 100,000 has become a safety issue itself as the number of car-deer collisions has doubled in 10 years.
Opening the first Sunday is expected to increase the kill more than the daily average because about one-third of the total harvest for the season is taken by enthusiastic hunters who find deer less wary at the start of the season.
Mrs. Grosfeld advocates using nonlethal methods such as contraception to manage the wildlife.
Nonlethal wildlife management is useful where hunting isn't safe, but hunting is the only efficient and cost-effective way to control deer, said Delegate Kenneth D. Schisler, middle Eastern Shore Republican.

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