- The Washington Times - Sunday, November 7, 2004

Now that the over-hyped recent Maryland black bear hunt is over and all those involved have finished patting one another on the back for a job well done, the question arises whether the Department of Natural Resources really did such a fine job.

A number of Maryland hunters have voiced concern that this oft-ballyhooed “hunt” wasn’t much of a hunt at all. It didn’t solve a thing even though it showed the animal-rights wackos in the state that wildlife biologists — and not the Bambi huggers — ought to decide when wild game should be hunted.

But listen to what western Marylander Brent Nelson said about the one-day hunt, which was supposed to show the wild bruins that homeowners and farmers no longer would put up with their shenanigans.

“State wildlife biologists say there are approximately 500 bears in Garrett and Allegany counties, yet it took 183 hunters only a few hours to check in 20 bears, with a predicted 10 [additional bears] coming to the check stations [later],” Nelson said. “It’s hogwash. There are several thousand bears in the two counties.”

Nelson wonders whether removing 30 bears (the original target number) would have made any difference. State officials are pandering to the whims of tree huggers, he charges.

“Bears are a big problem on our mountain in Allegany County now,” Nelson said. “My 81-year-old father raised honey bees and processed honey ever since I was a child. This past year he gave it up, simply because the bears ripped his hives apart every chance they could get — and this was in his backyard, 300 feet from U.S. Route 220.

“Our family never had this happen until recently,” Nelson continued. “We need control of the bear population, and this token hunt that our politically correct DNR instituted this year was pathetic.”

Interestingly, Nelson, a hulk of a man who is a Coast Guard-licensed fishing guide as well as a lifelong hunter, suggests the state should trap as many bears as possible and redistribute them in Montgomery, Prince George’s, Howard and Arundel counties and then see what our animal-rights people have to say.

Nelson also notes Pennsylvania’s Black Bear Management Plan says approximately 23 percent of the male bear and 16 percent of the female bear population is removed annually through hunting, yet hunting has not limited population growth. Harvest rates higher than 20 percent appear sustainable, although harvests greater than 23 to 25 percent generally are believed to be unsustainable for most black bear populations in North America.

If that formula were to be used in Maryland and there indeed are only 500 bears in Allegany and Garrett counties, the number of bears that could have been hunted without serious population effects would have been at least 100.

However, the DNR’s Wildlife and Heritage Service director, Paul A. Peditto, said, “This hunt was designed to be biologically conservative; our decision to close the hunt prior to reaching the target harvest reinforces that commitment.”

Longtime hunter Bob Troup of Seabrook, Md., echoed Nelson but also objected to the big fuss that was made about the first bear shot that day: an 84-pounder some people called a cub and others simply referred to as a juvenile.

“What a bunch of malarkey that was,” Troup said. “The guy who shot it ought to be ashamed of himself. It didn’t go unnoticed either. Every TV and radio station, plus all the newspapers mentioned that little bear. Few bothered to talk about the 428-pounder that was shot.”

Troup agreed that the entire bear “control” deal was poorly handled by people who know as much about bear hunting and proper bear management as I do about piloting a 747 — nothing.

Troup and Nelson aren’t alone. I have heard similar sentiments from other Maryland hunters. One Virginia bear hunter thought whoever ran the Maryland bear hunt was a “wuss.” His word, not mine.

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

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