- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 14, 2004

I get an odd feeling when I compare Maryland and Virginia, two states that lie adjacent to each other but are light years apart in matters of common sense.

In Virginia, for example, having a well-regulated bear hunting season is no bigger a deal than having a good hunt for deer, ducks or grouse. Virginians even use hounds to hunt their bear in the counties west of the Blue Ridge. In Maryland, where dandelion pickers and Bambi huggers apparently come out of the woodwork when you mention the word hunting, there is all manner of opposition to a state proposal that would allow very limited hunting of black bear this fall.

The hunt would permit the removal of 30 bruins in Garrett County and a part of Allegany County in the western portions of the state. And while the Department of Natural Resources says that within Garrett and Allegany, at least 400 black bear live and thrive, the locals up in the mountains say there are nearly that many in Allegany alone.

Brent Nelson, an Allegany County native, and a fervent hunter, as well as being a Deep Creek Lake fishing guide, says in years past you could see a bear only if you visited a zoo or a county fair side show.

“Nowadays, when I hunt deer and sit up in a tree stand, I frequently see bears,” he said. “That’s something so new to us, it still astonishes local hunters.”

The Maryland hunt would run Oct.25 to 30 and Dec.6 to 11 — 10 days. Dogs would not be permitted, except in the case of finding a wounded animal, and even then the dog must be on a lead and the Natural Resources Police must first be notified.

Why then throw such a fit when the state’s wildlife managers say it’s OK to shoot 30 bear?

What’s the hubbub, bub?

Everybody ought to agree that wildlife scientists have no interest in annihilating a species. Au contraire, they want it to do well.

So when homeowners in the far recesses of Garrett and Allegany complain about nuisance bears and apiarists griped that some of their honey was being swiped by the slick bears, not to mention certain damage being done to fruit orchards and sweet-corn fields, there are several courses of action you could follow: make all the humans move and cede the land to the bears, or teach the super-intelligent bears a tough lesson by shooting some because the humans aren’t likely to leave.

Black bear are so smart they can make a wily whitetail deer look retarded by comparison. So if the bears feel a little hunting pressure, they will not nearly be as brazen as they are now. The point is to instill more fear into them than they now have.

I know not many scientists will readily agree that this works well, because it would be politically incorrect to do so, but a measured amount of hunting pressure can indeed be a working part of a nuisance bear problem.

Whatever happens, only 30 bears will be allowed to be shot. A tight reporting system will be employed and the hunt canceled when the magic number is reached. Strict enforcement of the law will see to that, and scofflaws will be nabbed and prosecuted.

In the end, all will be fine, the shrill calls of animal rightists notwithstanding.

Now let the professional biologists and wildlife managers do their jobs without injecting undue emotional hogwash.

Look for Gene Mueller’s Outdoors column Sunday, Wednesday and Thursday, only in The Washington Times. E-mail: gmueller@washingtontimes.com

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