If you peruse the wildlife forums or read social media comments, you already know that there are some hunters who give the Maryland Wildlife and Heritage Service a pretty rough time about the state’s bear hunting season, which allows a limited number of permits. This year there were 950.
You see comments such as, “Maryland needs to have over-the-counter tags so anybody can hunt bears,” or “There ought to be an archery season for bears that is open to all hunters.”
What some folks may not remember, or perhaps have never known, is that the wildlife agency went to the mat to have that first bruin hunt back in 2004. Those wrestling matches with hunt opponents took place in the General Assembly, in courtrooms and in the media.
There are organizations and individuals constantly looking for openings to stop bear hunting in Maryland. Some people get paid pretty good money in an effort to make that happen.
One such opening is the inauguration of a new governor, something that will take place in the near future in Annapolis. For example, when Martin O’Malley became governor in 2007, three years after the first bear hunt in more than a half century, the anti-hunting community beseeched him to stop the season. O’Malley, to his credit, stuck with his wildlife biologists, recognizing the scientific foundation of the hunt and trusting the agency to carry on.
I anticipate that Gov.-elect Wes Moore will receive requests to stop the hunt. Perhaps he already has.
I asked a Moore spokesperson for the governor-elect’s thoughts concerning Maryland bear hunting, but have not yet heard back.
Maryland’s hunt has been tightly managed. Consequently, it has been an effective tool for reducing the nuisance and danger factors that come with bears in the neighborhood without endangering the overall population.
They know all about that in New Jersey.
Bear hunting there has been a bio-political football. The bruin hunting season has been on then off, then on, then off and now it is back on once more. Science turns the bear hunt on and whiney animal rights activists turn it off.
Bear hunting began in New Jersey in 2003, but one year later was stopped. It resumed in 2005, but only for that year. Once ended again, it stayed that way through 2009. During that time, problems with bears increased exponentially. The season returned in 2010 and the hunt continued until Gov. Phil Murphy took office in 2018 and killed it.
Now, Murphy has changed his mind and a bear hunt will take place in December.
“I feel awful (about allowing the hunt),” Murphy told NJ Advance Media. “But I can’t violate what are obvious facts that are potentially undermining public safety, particularly among kids. I just can’t in good conscience go on in this direction. Every New Jerseyan deserves to live in communities in which their children, families, and property are protected from harm, and while I committed to ending the bear hunt, the data demands that we act now to prevent tragic bear-human interactions,” Murphy said.
Well, Maryland certainly knows about tragic bear-human interactions.
During a recent four-year period, two horrible attacks by bears resulting in grievous injuries, hospitalizations, rehabilitations and permanent physical impairment took place in Frederick County.
The first was in 2016 (Google “Frederick bear attack Osborne”) and the second in 2020 (Google “Frederick bear attack Levow”).
I was unaware of the second attack until recently. I have confirmed that, although DNR staff responded to Frederick area media that had inquired about the incident, the agency apparently made no public news release to inform Marylanders about the attack.
DNR, via a contract with Morgan State University and the research firm Responsive Management, is conducting a telephone survey of Maryland residents, asking their opinions and thoughts about management of the species.
I hope a show of hands doesn’t replace sound wildlife science in determining the future of a bear hunt in Maryland.
If a bear comes through your window in Garrett County and systematically explores your kitchen looking for the Cap’n Crunch or a bear with your dog or, heaven forbid, your child in its mouth is headed for the woods in your Frederick County backyard, I don’t believe the opinion of a suburban Maryland resident about bears will be on your mind.
Bears are also very rough on the grills and fenders of BMWs.
Mike Sawyers retired in 2018 as outdoor editor of the Cumberland Times-News. His column now appears biweekly. To order his book “Native Queen, a celebration of the hunting and fishing life” in time for Christmas, send him a check for $15 to 16415 Lakewood Drive, Rawlings, MD 21557.
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