On October 25th 2004, Maryland DNR conducted Maryland’s first black bear hunting season in 51 years. After decades of research and population monitoring, the decision was made to once again hunt black bears in western Maryland. The hunt was conducted in Garrett County and western Allegany County (from Cumberland west) and two hundred bear hunting permits were awarded. The goal of the hunt was to slow the growth of western Maryland’s growing black bear population.
In 2004, 20 black bears were checked in on the opening day of the hunting season. In 2005, hunters harvested 40 bears in four days. This was achieved despite an early-season snowstorm and long-term power outages across most of the hunt area. In 2006, DNR expanded the hunt area to include all of Garrett and Allegany counties and increased the number of permits awarded to 220. In 2006, hunters harvested 41 bears in two days. Hunters harvested 51 bears in four days in 2007 and 56 bears in four days in 2008. In 2009, the number of permits was increased to 240 and 68 bears were harvested. Despite unseasonably warm temperatures, 67 bears were harvested in five days in 2010. In 2011, 260 permits were issued and 65 bears were taken in four days. In 2012, DNR increased the number of permits awarded and quota range. In 2012, 340 bear hunting permits were awarded and 92 bears were killed in the five day season. In 2013, 380 permits were issued and 94 bears were killed in the six day season. In 2014, DNR eliminated the quota system that had been used to manage black bear harvest since 2004. Instead, a four-day hunting season was established with 450 bear hunting permits issued. Despite poor weather conditions, sixty-nine bears were harvested in those four days. In 2015, hunters harvested 95 bears during the four-day hunt. In 2016, the hunt area was expanded to include Washington and Frederick Counties and the number of permits issued was raised to 750. During the four-day season, hunters harvested a record 167 bears across the four counties now open to bear hunting. In 2017, hunters harvested 131 bears across the four counties during the four-day season. Hunter success rates have remained higher than the regional average of three percent to five percent (see Table 1).
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