Cumberland Times-News

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March 2, 2012

New formula gives Western Marylanders preference in bear hunting permit lottery

Initial 25 percent will go to area applicants

CUMBERLAND — A new system for allocating Maryland bear hunting permits is likely to result in applicants from Allegany and Garrett counties receiving about half of them, according to Paul Peditto, director of the Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service.

During recent bear seasons, 260 permits were available.

The agency has agreed to award the first 25 percent of the permits (65 if the total remains the same) to applicants from the bear hunting zone, which has been all of Garrett and Allegany counties.

Residents of those counties have drawn an average of 35 percent of the permits since bear hunting resumed in 2004. Peditto said the new formula will boost that percentage.

“The applicants from Garrett and Allegany who don’t get drawn for the first 25 percent of the permits will go back into the drawing with everybody else for the remaining 75 percent,” Peditto said via phone Friday.

Throughout the eight years of bear hunting, Allegany-Garrett residents — while averaging 35 percent of the permits — have killed 55 percent of the bears.

“They know where bears are and have better access to private lands,” Peditto said, adding that he expects hunting to become a more efficient bear management tool with more local hunters seeking the animals. Peditto said that because most nuisance bears reside on private lands, more of those animals will be taken with the new system.

“It could be, too, that more hunters from those counties will apply knowing that their odds to be drawn have improved,” he said.

The new protocol came as a byproduct of legislation that was almost introduced by Delegate Wendell Beitzel, who sought to have more bear hunting permits go to owners of 50 or more acres of land in those two counties.

“The DNR informed me that it would not be legal to grant landowners special privileges,” Beitzel said. “They asked that I give them an opportunity to work on the issue. I am very appreciative of the DNR’s willingness to make accommodations to resolve some of our requests or concerns,” Beitzel said.

Allegany-Garrett Sportsmen’s Association President Jerry Zembower said he, too, is pleased, though he sought an even greater number of permits for local hunters.

Zembower said the greater allocation will “definitely wake the people up out our way. They’ll see that the DNR is trying to take care of our people, at least a little bit.”

Even though putting more Western Maryland hunters in the woods might make for busier days at the check-in stations, Peditto said he anticipates that the season will continue to last four or five days before the harvest quota is reached.

The agency awaits laboratory results from its first bear population survey in six years, the results of which will be used to establish the harvest quota, number of permits, hunting area and other specifics associated with the 2012 bear season.

Traditionally, there has been a $15 nonrefundable application fee, and permits have been awarded in early September. In 2011, 3,915 hunters applied.

Since bear hunting resumed after a moratorium of a half-century, hunters have legally taken 408 bears. The greatest single harvest was 68 in 2009. The smallest was 20 in 2004.

“This change is good,” Beitzel said. “I know one hunting club with 19 members and none of them have been able to draw a bear-hunting permit.”

Beitzel said the effort to alter the permit allocation was supported by the Maryland Legislative Sportsmen’s Foundation.

Contact Michael A. Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.

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