CUMBERLAND — Factors including inclement weather contributed to a lower harvest, compared to recent years, for Maryland’s 17th annual black bear hunt, held last week in the state’s four western counties.
Harry Spiker, game mammal section leader for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources Wildlife & Heritage Service, said 117 bears were taken during the hunt, including 23 in Allegany County, three in Frederick County, 83 in Garrett County and eight in Washington County.
“The harvest was down from recent years due to a combination of limited natural food availability,” Spiker said via email of bear fare including acorns.
Poor weather conditions also hampered the hunt.
“Wind, rain, sleet, fog and even blowing snow were all experienced during the hunt, which made it challenging for the hunters,” Spiker said.
The average harvested bear weighed 155 pounds.
The largest bear of the season was a 537 pound male taken in Frederick County.
The state made 950 permits available for this year’s hunt, which included a modified bear check-in procedure to implement social distancing due to COVID-19.
The 2018 and 2019 seasons each had 800 permits available.
The goal of the annual hunt is to slow the growth of Maryland’s black bear population.
The bear population continues to expand by 12% annually, Spiker told the Cumberland Times-News earlier this year.
Last year, Spiker said good weather contributed to the hunt’s success, which resulted in 145 bears taken.
In 2018, 135 hunters harvested a bear.
In 2017, 131 bears were harvested in the state’s annual hunt.
The record number of bears harvested in Maryland stands at 167 in 2016.
That year, the hunt was expanded from Garrett and Allegany to include Washington and Frederick counties.
Over the years, hundreds of black bears have been killed by vehicles on Maryland roads, while others died or had to be euthanized due to severe mange.
Bears in the past have also caused substantial damage to Maryland farm fields and livestock.
Although evidence of a breeding population is confined to the state’s four western counties, DNR each year receives several bear sightings and complaints in central and southern Maryland counties.