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OUTDOORS: Maryland opens, closes 2008 black bear season

October 26, 2008|By BILL ANDERSON / Herald-Mail outdoors writer

It was another very successful black bear season in Maryland. The season opened Monday and closed Thursday at 9 p.m.

The total kill was 56 bears, just within the range of 55 to 75 bears the DNR was hoping to harvest.

Of the 56 bears, 46 came from Garrett County, the other 10 from Allegany County. The largest bear was a 332-pound male taken by Matt McKenzie of Frostburg. The average weight was 178 pounds.

A vast majority -- 86 percent -- of the bears were taken on private land. Fifty-nine percent of the 452 hunters who participated live in Allegany and Garrett counties.

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The DNR said the new preference point system is working. Fifty-six percent of applicants entered the drawing with a preference point, and 70 percent of those who drew permits had preference points. It appears that this new system DNR implemented based on hunter input was effective in its first year.

This year's harvest of 56 bears probably will slow the rate of growth in the overall bear population in Western Maryland. About 50 bears are killed on the highways and by poaching each year, so the total mortality for the year will be around 100 bears out of an estimated population of more than 500.

When you consider that the breeding females in the population usually have more than one cub, it's clear that this conservative hunting season will in no way endanger the viability of the bear population in Maryland.

Maryland has not reached a point where it will be considered a major bear hunting state, as Pennsylvania or West Virginia are. But another successful season in 2008 demonstrates that Maryland does have a healthy, expanding population of bears, and that a conservative hunting season can continue to be an important part of the overall management plan.

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