Cumberland Times-News

October 21, 2013

Bear season opens for tenth year in Maryland

First day of the hunt records 41 bears; officials set harvest range of 95 to 130 bruins

Michael A. Sawyers
Cumberland Times-News

— MOUNT NEBO — Maryland’s bear hunt turned 10 on Monday.

There was no cake and there were no candles, but Robyn Cook got the party started when she checked in a 319-pound bear about 9:30 a.m.

“It was pretty exciting,” said the 19-year-old who harvested the sow bear not far from her Westernport home.

The Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service set a harvest range of 95 to 130 bears for the six-day season, but has the option to stop the hunt earlier if the level is reached before Saturday.

As of 9 p.m. on Monday, 41 bears had been checked in, seven of those from Allegany County.

“I expect the hunt to last until Thursday or Friday,” said Harry Spiker, the agency’s black bear project leader.

Cook used a .243 caliber rifle to make the 70-yard shot. She was hunting with her father, John Cook, on land owned by Steve Michaels.

Michaels said his tractor made for easy retrieval of the carcass.

Cook’s bear wore a radio collar. The 10-year-old bear was well known to Spiker and his crew.

“This was the bear we took out of a tree in Westernport in 2007,” Spiker said. “She stayed on one side of Route 36 or the other after that.”

Spiker said the sow had three cubs in 2008, four in 2010 and two in 2012. Removing her and any cubs she would have in the future has the potential to reduce nuisance complaints there, he noted.

Cook said she will have the bear mounted in full-body form.

Paul Peditto, director of the WHS, said the 10 years of bear hunting in far Western Maryland has removed many bears that were living near people. “The harvest is not made up entirely of bears from the deep forest,” Peditto said.

The agency attempts to pair hunters with landowners whose crops have been damaged by bruins.

Terry Imhoff of Mountain Lake Park checked in a 244-pound male bear taken just north of Oakland. It was Imhoff’s first bear and he had patterned it during the recent three-day deer muzzleloader season, watching it come and go from a cornfield.

Jim Lyons, Cumberland, bagged a 106-pound male bear, and said he was happy to have been successful. Lyons killed the bruin shortly after daylight on the Savage River State Forest in the Fort Hill Road area.

Bob Walls lives in Centerville in Queen Anne’s County, but owns property along Sang Run Road in Garrett County, near where he harvested a 142-pound female bear, his first.

“I’m satisfied, but it felt like it weighed 500 pounds when we tried to move it,” Walls said. He plans for a taxidermist to make a shoulder mount.

Another successful bear hunter was Mike Stemple of Crellin whose first impression of his first bear was that the animal was “hard to drag.”

Stemple used a 30-30 rifle to harvest the 169-pound male bear on private land near Lostland Run in Garrett County.

Asked to recall one highlight from a decade of Maryland bear hunting, a contentious subject in its early years, Peditto didn’t hesitate.

“Sierra Stiles,” Peditto said, referring to the Kitzmiller lass who was 8 in 2005 when she shot a 211-pound bear 30 minutes after the season began.

Animal rights groups had objected to the hunt and Stiles’ success at her tender age rapidly spread that indignation.

“Sierra was articulate and passionate about hunting,” Peditto said. “She was strong.” Stories about Stiles and her bear went international.   

“Reuters, Los Angeles Times, BBC, you name it,” Peditto said. “If the hunter had been a 27-year-old man, nothing would have been said.”

Spiker thinks of the decade not in terms of one incident, but as an ongoing display of family bonding.

“You will have one family member get a bear and they gather the grandparents, the kids and the cousins and come here as a group to check in the bear,” Spiker said. “Those are happy occasions.”

Sgt. Dave Marple of the Maryland Natural Resources Police remembers the first hunt in 2004.

“We knew there would be protestors, so we designated a certain arera for them to stand and hold their signs,” Marple said.

“There were not any incidents requiring arrests, though we were ready and had a van that could transport several people at one time,” Marple said.

Peditto said there have been no hunting accidents during Maryland’s bear seasons.

There are no plans to expand the hunting area past Garrett and Allegany counties during the next two years, though Spiker said that option will be monitored.

“We are getting a lot of calls about nuisance bears in Frederick County,” he said.

The wildlife officials were expecting to check a lot of bears later Monday.

“The rush is always about one hour after dark,” Peditto said.

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