The Maryland Department of Natural Resources is considering eliminating the black bear hunt quota and instead opening the season for a pre-determined number of days.

The change is intended to help hunters plan more effectively and would eliminate the need for them to call a hotline each night to determine the status of the hunt.

Last October, for the first time since the hunt was revived in 2004 after a 51-year hiatus, hunters who spent parts of six days in Garrett and Allegany counties failed to meet the quota set by the DNR’s Wildlife and Heritage Service.

Ninety-four bears were killed — one shy of the quota of 95 to 130. The previous year, 92 bears were killed with the quota between 80 and 110.

Under the proposal, past harvest rates would be used to determine the length of the hunt. A lottery would still be used to award permits.

The DNR invites residents to comment on the proposed change — and several others to the 2014-15 and 2015-16 hunting and trapping seasons —through March 17.

Participants can view the proposed regulations and comment at dnr.state.md.us/wildlife/Comments/2014-2016_Proposal.asp.

DNR is also accepting feedback by telephone at 410-260-8540 (toll free 877-620-8DNR ext. 8540); fax to 410-260-8596; and written mail to Karina Stonesifer, Acting Director, DNR Wildlife and Heritage Service, Tawes State Office Building E-1, Annapolis, MD, 21401.

The proposals will be presented and open for comment at the following public meetings:

Tuesday at 7 p.m. in the Cadby Theatre (Room H-103) at Chesapeake College in Wye Mills.

Thursday at 7 p.m. in the cafeteria of Mountain Ridge High School in Frostburg.

The Wildlife and Heritage Service reevaluates regulations for game species every two years to ensure best management.

Rail trail maintenance

Portions of the Western Maryland Rail Trail will be closed for scheduled maintenance March 10-27 to ensure the safety of visitors. The work will remove trees and limbs damaged by insects and recent ice storms.

The maintenance will be taking place all throughout the trail. As an alternative route, visitors may use the adjoining C&O Canal unpaved towpath, owned and managed by the National Park Service. Workers will be using heavy power equipment, so park staff remind trail-goers to exercise caution and follow sign alerts and verbal direction.

For more information, contact Fort Frederick State Park at 301-842-2155.