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Wildlife remains steady in Maryland

December 31, 2006|by BILL ANDERSON

Managing wildlife population is anything but an exact science, but the numbers for 2006 show that wildlife populations in Maryland have been relatively stable over the past five years for the more important species - turkey, deer and bear.

The following is a quick overview of the 2006 numbers:

Wild turkey: Hunters bagged a total of 3,008 gobblers during the spring season. This was not a record kill, but the DNR had predicted that the number might be down this spring after a poor hatch was recorded in 2005.

Statewide, the spring gobbler numbers have been relatively consistent over the past five years - 3,127 in 2002; 3,120 in 2003; 2,760 in 2004; 3,136 in 2005 and 3,008 in 2006.

The numbers for Washington County for the spring season have also been relatively consistent over the past five seasons - 296 in 2002; 325 in 2003; 305 in 2004; 340 in 2005 and 322 in 2006.

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The harvest numbers for the fall turkey season are very likely to vary a great deal from year to year. The fall season success is directly related to the nesting success that spring. The numbers for Maryland certainly reflect that factor. Keep in mind that the fall season is open in Western Maryland only.

The statewide totals for the fall turkey season were: 235 in 2002; 164 in 2003; 207 in 2004; 137 in 2005 and 205 in 2006.

Washington County numbers for the past five fall season have been very consistent - 36 in 2002; 35 in 2003; 33 in 2004; 37 in 2005 and 45 in 2006.

Black bear: Maryland's first black bear season in modern history was held in 2004 and a total of 20 bears were taken before the hunt closed after one day. In 2005, 40 bears were taken and, in 2006, 41 bears were taken.

DNR officials are working with a conservative harvest target, so the state's bear population should continue to grow and expand. In 2005, the DNR estimated the state's bear population to be approximately 326 bears, with a breeding population of bears in all four western counties.

An interesting sidebar on the black bear hunt is that the outgoing governor has taken the position that he would follow the recommendations of the professionals (DNR wildlife managers) in allowing the limited hunt. The previous governor was on record as being opposed to bear hunting in Maryland.

It would not be shocking to me to see the bear season curtailed or stopped with the change of administration in January of 2007. The Maryland bear season has some powerful and noisy opponents, and they may find a more receptive audience when the new governor takes over.

Deer: The final numbers on the 2006-2007 Maryland deer season are not in since the bow season is open until the end of January and there are two days of additional firearms season Jan. 5-6 in 21 counties.

Overall, the Maryland deer harvest has been relatively steady over the past five seasons. That would indicate that the herd managers have been successful in managing in a way to avoid the radical harvest variations that have occurred in West Virginia over the same period. More details when the final numbers are in.

Bill Anderson writes a weekly outdoors column for The Herald-Mail.

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