- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 7, 2004

ANNAPOLIS — Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. yesterday approved a plan to allow hunters to kill as many as 30 black bears in western Maryland by the end of the year, overriding objections of a legislative committee.

A General Assembly committee that reviews regulations proposed by state agencies voted 12-7 last month to ask Mr. Ehrlich to stop the hunt, which natural resources officials say is needed to help control the state’s growing population of black bears.

But the governor sent a letter to the Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review Committee rejecting the request and authorizing the Department of Natural Resources to proceed with plans for a hunt during six days next month.

An additional six-day hunting season will be held in December if the allotment of 30 bears has not been reached.

Michael Markarian, president of the Fund for Animals, criticized Mr. Ehrlich’s decision and said his organization will consider going to court to stop the hunt.

Mr. Ehrlich “sided with the trophy hunters who want to kill bears for their heads and their hides,” Mr. Markarian said. “If the governor is not listening to the citizens or legislators, then we may have to seek additional relief from the courts.”

The hunt was defended by Paul Peditto, a wildlife official with the Department of Natural Resources.

He said it is “a highly regulated, structured management strategy that has never been about trophy hunting and remains consistent with the decisions of a citizen advisory task force.”

“We’re dealing with a bear population in Maryland that has grown 127 percent in a 10-year period,” Mr. Peditto said.

He said Maryland now has about 500 black bears, including about 400 in the area west of Cumberland where hunting will be allowed. Wildlife groups opposed to the hunt say the state is inflating the number of bears in Maryland.

The Department of Natural Resources will accept applications for a bear-hunting permit through Sept. 21 and will draw names Sept. 22 to see who gets the 200 permits.

The first hunting season will be Oct. 25 to 30 in Garrett County and a section of Allegany County west of Cumberland. Wildlife officials say they will monitor the number of bears that are shot and will end the season when the number reaches 30. The second season, if needed, will be Dec. 6 to 11.

Western Maryland lawmakers, supported by some constituents who say bears are becoming an increasing threat to people and domestic animals as their numbers multiply, have been pushing for a bear hunt for several years.

Former Gov. Parris N. Glendening, a Democrat, opposed a bear hunt and instituted a policy against a hunt, but it was rescinded by Mr. Ehrlich, a Republican, who left it to natural-resources officials to determine if a hunt was justified.

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