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DNR chief defends planned bear hunt

April 22, 2004|by DAVID DISHNEAU

ANNAPOLIS - A planned western Maryland bear hunt, the state's first in 51 years, is about ecological balance, not hunter trophies, Department of Natural Resources Secretary C. Ronald Franks said Wednesday.

The agency also announced changes to the proposed rules, including one that would require hunting team members to remain within sight of each other at all times.

Franks, responding to criticism from animal-protection advocates, told the state Wildlife Advisory Commission that the hunt planned for this fall seeks to address an "overabundance" of black bears in Garrett and Allegany counties.

"Let's make something clear: We're not talking about a trophy bear hunt," he said. "We're talking about having a bear-hunter-reduced population."

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Commissioner Joseph E. Lamp was the lone dissenter in the panel's 5-1 vote favoring the hunt. He argued that the state's estimated bear population of 500 - including 400 in the hunt zone - is too small to hunt.

The commission meeting was the last step in gathering public comment before the DNR issues final draft rule proposals as soon as next month. The agency will then consider written comments.

The split season is planned for two six-day periods this fall, Oct. 25-30 and Dec. 6-11.

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