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Maryland’s bear hunt: A record year

Hunters return to the check-in station at Mount Nebo Wildlife Management Area in Oakland, Md., in 2004 with the first and second bears killed in the first black bear hunt in the state since 1953. (Ricky Carioti/The Washington Post)

The other day I delivered bad news for Maryland bears: The quota for bear kills and the number of hunters allowed to kill had both increased for this year’s hunt.

The bad news for the bears gets worse.

I just got off the phone with Harry Spiker, the state’s bear biologist, who told me “we’ve taken more bears by now than we have ever taken in a year.”

That would be 75, seven more than the highest previous total in 2009.

Spiker expects the quota of 80 to 110 bears to be hit tonight or tomorrow. The quota had been increased from 65 last year because of a thriving bear population which has more than doubled in recent years.

“The bear population is healthy but our goal is to slow the growth,” Spiker said. “We want to slow the growth down and slow the spread of bears eastward” from the hunt zone in the states’s western counties.

Spiker and I agreed that bears wandering east toward Bethesda probably wasn’t a good thing.

“We want to minimize the human-bear interactions,” Spiker said. “Bears are better suited to habitats where they have a lot of room to roam.”

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