- The Washington Times - Saturday, October 9, 2004

A Rockville animal-rights activist has sent out a mass mailing to property owners in Garrett County, Md., stating they should not allow bear hunters on their properties because 40 percent of them are drug addicts, drunks or mentally unstable.

Earle D. Hightower, chairman of the Institute for Public Safety, a 27-member group mainly concerned with such issues as traffic and smog, acknowledges the statistic printed on 600 cards is phony, but says it’s all for the cause.

“My personal opinion is that anybody who goes out and shoots helpless animals has a psychiatric problem,” said Mr. Hightower, 82, a former hunter and World War II veteran. “Logically, statistically if you look at a sample of the regular population, certain people will have some kind of psychiatric problems.”

The hunt is scheduled for Oct. 25 through 30. It will end when hunters have killed 30 bears out of an estimated statewide population of 500. If fewer than 30 are killed, a second hunt will be held Dec. 6 through 11. It will be Maryland’s first black bear hunt in 51 years.

Steven Christian, president of the Maryland Sportsman’s Association, is not amused by Mr. Hightower’s efforts.

“I am exploring my options right now for what can really be done about this,” said Mr. Christian, president of the Maryland Sportsman’s Association. “I believe this gentleman overstepped the bounds of decency.”

Mr. Hightower said he plans to distribute another 400 of the 5-by-8-inch cards because he is concerned about residents’ safety.

“You hear about hunting accidents all the time,” he said. “Of course every year somebody gets shot during a hunting accident.”

Mr. Hightower, who maintains he is a former National Rifle Association member, said he also is concerned about the “helpless” bears.

“These black bears are reclusive animals,” he said. “They don’t like to be around people and they are easy to shoot.”

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources has issued 200 permits for the hunt.

Officials estimate that about 400 of the state’s roughly 500 bears are in a section of Allegany County west of Cumberland. They want the hunt, in part, to reduce the likelihood of bear-human conflicts.

A judge in Prince George’s County has scheduled a hearing Oct. 18 on a lawsuit filed by animal-protection advocates in September seeking to stop the hunt.

Their petition claims state officials used flawed science and violated statutory deadlines in authorizing the hunt.

In September, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., a Republican, approved a plan to allow the hunt, reversing a policy instituted by his predecessor, Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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