The online application period for a Maryland bear hunting permit is expected to begin July 13, according to Harry Spiker, black bear project leader for the Maryland Wildlife & Heritage Service.

Hunters apply via their individual DNR ID numbers at Applications will be accepted through Aug. 31.

“Not much has changed this year other than an increase in the number of hunting permits from 450 up to 500,” Spiker said Thursday. “And we are hoping for better weather than a year ago.”

The hunt will take place Oct. 26-29 in Garrett and Allegany counties.

“We bumped the number of permits higher because we recognized there was a low harvest last year,” Spiker said.

During the four-day hunt in 2014, hunters checked in 69 bears, down from the 92 in 2012 and 94 in 2013.

“Opening day last year was real warm and the next three days were cold and rainy,” Spiker said. “It’s hard for hunters to stay out in those conditions.”

Spiker said the Department of Natural Resources’ information and technology unit is attempting to make available online the number of preference points each hunter has accumulated.

“We are hoping to have that available by the end of July,” he said.

Unsuccessful applicants are issued a preference point and, as long as they continue to apply each year, their chances for success improve.

For example, I bagged a bear in 2009 and have applied each year since then. Thus, I’ll have five preference points plus this year’s application, putting my hat in the ring a total of six times.

The greatest number of applicants in any single year was 4,027 in 2012 when 340 permits were available.

This past year, 3,846 applied for 450 permits. Applicants pay a nonrefundable fee of $15.

This year’s drawing is set for Sept. 4.

“We hope to make the winners available that same day, but at least by Sept. 8, which is the day after Labor Day,” Spiker said.

A successful applicant may name two companion hunters, though the group is allowed just one bear.

There will be two checking stations: Mount Nebo Work Center in Garrett County and Billmeyer Work Center in Allegany County.

This will be the 12th bear season since the hunt was reborn in 2004.

During the first 11 hunts, 663 bears were checked in.

The largest bear harvested continues to be the 615-pound boar taken by Coty Jones in 2007 in western Garrett County.

The greatest single-season kill was 94 in 2013.

Mike Sawyers is a staff writer and the outdoor editor at Cumberland Times-News. Call/text him at 301-268-0630, email and follow him on Twitter.

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