Black Bear Task Force -
In general I am satisfied with the accomplishments of the Maryland Black Bear Task Force; however, I do have some suggestions and opinions to put forth for the final copy of the recommendations. Living with bears since 1989 on my property, I feel I have opinions based on more fact than most people serving on this task force. I feel strongly that the Maryland DNR at this time could do more to contact the wildlife divisions of surrounding states with black bears. We can learn from those states that are ahead of us in population of bears and proven solutions to the conflicts between bears and humans. I would suggest that we contact the wildlife divisions from the surrounding states on a regular basis in the future, for information they have in their files and are quite willing to share with the state of Maryland. It make no sense to me to spend years and tax dollars accumulating data, when a phone call makes it possible for the MD DNR to receive thousands of pages on black bears from other state's files.
I agree with George Falter, John Hadidian, Mike Markarian and Ron Barry that this task force failed to provide factual evidence proving a hunt would result in the death of nuisance bears. I would like to thank members of DNR and especially Harry Spiker for the detailed information they have provided to the task force over the last year. Several times I requested the DNR to provide the members with information or statistics on the number of nuisance complaints rising in relation to the growing bear population. We were never presented with that information, which I felt was critical to the bear hunt vote. Since we were not presented with scientific evidence of nuisance bears being killed during hunting season in surrounding states, several members voted against a hunting season. I decided to make some phone calls myself and get in writing the facts about bear hunts and statistics on nuisance bears being killed during hunting seasons. I have enclosed copies of statements from wildlife personnel from the states of:
CALIFORNIA - "EVALUATION OF THE POTENTIAL EFFECTS OF SPORT HUNITNG ON CALIFORNIA BLACK BEARS", Timothy Burton, California Department of Fish and Game. Page 234 "Since 1982, the number of bear depredation incidents has increased and since 1987, an average of 68 nuisance or depredation bears per year have been killed."
NEW JERSEY - " BLACK BEAR IN NEW JERSEY STATUS REPORT 2002", Patrick C. Carr, Supervising Wildlife Biologist Black Bear Project Leader. Page 7. "Hunting is a safe, legal, responsible use of the wildlife resource and a legitimate and effective means to control the increasing population of bears, thereby reducing associated problems (vehicle collisions, home entries, livestock kills, pet kills and property damage) in a cost effective manner." "In conclusion, the Division will focus on an integrated strategy for bear management that includes a continuing educational campaign, research and monitoring, and appropriate control measures. However, the alternate bear management strategy whose effectiveness is still being evaluated, does not address the need to reduce the ever-increasing bear population. The population expansion will result in increasing bear problems in a much greater area of the state." Pat informed me that Pennsylvania returns tags every year from New Jersey bears hunted and killed in Pennsylvania that had been tagged as nuisance bears in New Jersey.
NEW HAMPSHIRE - I spent several hours on the phone and on email conversing with Ben Kilham, New Hampshire black bear specialist who has personally hand raised 9 black bear cubs. He has also raised 35 other cubs for the state of New Hampshire and handles their black bear behavioral research. Ben can be seen on the Discovery Channel quite frequently these days. Ben literally "lives with the bears" and is the author of the book," Among the Bears" which so many members of the Fund For Animals referred to in their letters to the task force against a bear hunt. Ben stated to me that according to his research Eastern black bears are doubling their population every 7 years and 20% should be harvested to provide those surviving with suitable habitat. He stated that proportionally 20% of black bears harvested during hunts in New Hampshire were nuisance bears. To quote from his book, "Among The Bears", Page 68. "But it's the fee-paying hunters, ironically who fund the professional wildlife management that work hardest to increase bear populations."
PENNSYLVANIA - " DATA ON HUNTING EFFECT ON NUISANCE BLACK BEARS", Mark A. Ternent, Wildlife Biologist, Black Bear Project Leader. "Mortality rates for 2002 were comparable to rates observed among tagged bears in recent years. Thus, vehicle collisions and hunting are among the two most common causes of death for bears in Pennsylvania. Both "conflict" and "non-conflict" bears are susceptible, and in some years, like 2002, the combined susceptibility is nearly equal for the two groups (e.g., 20.1% vs. 24.5%). Although the combined mortality rate for vehicle and hunting typically ranges between 20 and 25 percent, Pennsylvania's bear population has increased and expanded in the past two decades.
TENNESSEE - Chuck Hester, Bear Manager Specialist at the Great Smokey Mountains National Park. Chuck stated to me by phone that the food habituated and nuisance black bears in the Great Smokey Mountains area, where a young woman was killed in the summer of 2000, by a previously tagged nuisance bear and her cub)-are the first to get shot in a hunt, due to the fact that they are the most visible. This report has not arrived at the time of this meeting.
WEST VIRGINIA - "DATA ON HUNTING EFFECT ON NUISANCE BLACK BEARS", Curtis I. Taylor, Chief of Wildlife Resources. "The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources have tagged 128 and 131 adult black bears in nuisance and research situations, respectively within the study area since 1999 that were available to be harvested during hunting season. To date, 27 nuisance and 32 research bears have been harvested. During the 2002 hunting season, eighteen percent of the tagged bears were harvested. In addition to hunting mortality, bears have died due to vehicle collisions, illegal activity, repeat offensives from nuisance bears, etc. Hunting has been shown to be the most effective method to control bear populations and nuisance bears in West Virginia."
I have spent hours on the phone talking to these bear biologists and these men have a wealth of black bear information for the MD DNR to utilize. Speaking with them I discovered they are available and willing to share information they have spent years researching. All of the above listed, agree on that most important fact we missed in our research - a black bear hunt does indeed target a proportionate percentage of nuisance bears. I have attached copies of this correspondence for the task force members to review. I realize the vote on hunting was taken, but again, I think we failed to properly research available data to educate ourselves.
I think that it is obvious that no one in this state, especially hunters who support the bear programs at this time, expects to hunt bears to near extinction. That time is over and we have since learned from past necessities and mistakes. As Ben Kilham states in his email to me, people and black bears in reasonable numbers can co-exist.
Concerning the proposed public survey of black bears in Maryland, I believe that any information we would receive has already been discovered by other surrounding states. Talking with experts on black bears from surrounding states, one fact was discussed over and over - black bear population is making a remarkable comeback across the country. Every day bears are moving closer and closer to the cities - with that fact nuisance bear problems follow. It is logical that more and more citizens in many states are dealing with the negative behaviors of bears, as their populations increase.
In closing, I feel we have had a productive year and I would like to thank Tom Mathews for the excellent job he did as our chairman. The members of the DNR were an important part of our Task Force meetings - there to listen and available for most questions or request for information we needed. I for one certainly appreciate their help this last year. The DNR has come a long way over the last 3 years in their public relations work with the citizens of Maryland who live with bears on their property, as I do. I would like to thank the other members of the task force for their input and hard work. I expected to learn from our meetings and I certainly did gain more factual knowledge and insight into the feelings of others concerning black bears.
All contents (c) 2003 Maryland Department of Natural Resources. All
This page last updated April 01, 2003