O'Malley Allows Western Md. Bear Hunt to Proceed

By Joe Holley
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, October 16, 2007; 1:00 PM

Bears in Western Maryland will be under the gun yet again next week, when the state's fourth annual bear trophy hunt opens Monday.

Gov. Martin O'Malley (D) refused a request yesterday from the Humane Society of the United States to cancel the hunt, which lasts in its first phase through Oct. 27. A second phase of the split season is scheduled for Dec. 3-8.

The Humane Society objected to what it terms a "trophy hunt," as it has in each of the three previous bear seasons. Maryland reinstated bear hunting in 2004 under O'Malley's predecessor, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R), after a 51-year ban.

Rick Abbruzzese, a spokesman for the governor, said O'Malley had no plans to stop the hunt, the first since he took office.

"This is a regulated hunt to help manage the population and mitigate human-bear conflicts," Abbruzzese told the Associated Press.

"Black bears were protected in Maryland for more than half a century," said Michael Markorian, executive vice president for the Humane Society of the United States. "We believe that was the right policy. There was no compelling reason to open trophy hunting in 2004."

Markorian said the state should institute a more comprehensive education program to prevent bear-human interactions. "Trophy hunters are removing bears from the population that are not offending anyone or causing any problems at all," he said.

The Maryland Department of Natural Resources estimates a Maryland black bear population of 326, up from an estimated 12 in 1953.

"It's a very small population," Markorian said. "States with much larger populations, like Florida and New Jersey, do not allow hunting."

Twenty-eight states allow bears to be hunted, including Pennsylvania, with a bear population of approximately 15,000.

Maryland, where bear hunting is allowed only in Allegany and Garrett counties, awarded 220 black bear hunting permits in a random selection process conducted this fall. Up to 70 bears are expected to be killed this fall. Hunters killed a total of 101 in the first three years of the hunt.

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