- The Washington Times - Wednesday, November 23, 2005

HAGERSTOWN, Md. (AP) — Some hunters who pursued black bears in Western Maryland last month were being tracked themselves — by satellite.

About 42 of the 368 persons who participated in the four-day hunt voluntarily wore Global Positioning System (GPS) devices that recorded their geographical movements, state wildlife managers said Tuesday.

Some bears also wore GPS units in a cutting-edge effort to understand how the animals responded to hunting pressure.

“If a hunter’s in close proximity to a bear, how does the bear react? How are bears reacting overall when the hunters go into the woods? Do the bears change their movements? Do they not? That’s one of the things we’re trying to find out,” said biologist Steven Bittner, leader of the Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) game mammal section.

The two-year, $65,000 study is the first to track hunter and bear movements simultaneously, said Mr. Bittner and John Edwards, an associate professor of wildlife and fisheries resources at West Virginia University who is supervising the research.

The four bears in the study so far are from a group of animals previously fitted with radio collars that enable DNR researchers to find them in their dens during winter hibernation.

Mr. Bittner said the GPS units, about the size of a deck of cards, attach to the collars.

By the 2006 bear season, 15 to 17 bears will be rigged with the devices, and hunters will again be asked to wear GPS armbands, Mr. Bittner said.

Their movements will be stored on the devices and downloaded into a database for analysis, he said.

Mr. Edwards said the study, projected for completion in 2007, will help shape hunting regulations by shedding more light on the reasons some bears survive a hunt.

“Are those bears successful at avoiding hunters or are they just in areas that don’t get hunted?” he said.

Forty bears were killed during the October hunt in Garrett and western Allegany counties.

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