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End the senseless trophy killing of Md. black bears

For the 12th year in a row, your state Department of Natural Resources (DNR) enthusiastically supported the trophy killing of black of bears in Western Maryland for those among the 2 percent of Marylanders who hunt for sport.

DNR allowed the hunt even though the majority of Marylanders are opposed to such efforts, favoring non-lethal wildlife management alternatives.

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Season one in the latest streak began in 2004 with 20 bears killed; the bloodshed peaked this year with a record 95 bears killed. And to think, I was once assured years go by a DNR official that hunting black bears would not happen here.

Black bear hunting ceased in Maryland in the mid-1950s, as their numbers fell to just a few dozen. But as their population rebounded, DNR pushed to resume hunting them as a form of population control, caving in to requests from hunter advocacy groups. Once Republican Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. was elected governor, DNR was ready with their black bear hunting proposal. And while the Maryland Administrative, Executive and Legislative Review committee voted 12–7 to against a bear hunt, Mr. Ehrlich ignored their recommendation.

DNR also refused that year to accept the Humane Society of the United States' (HSUS) offer to pay $75,000 to farmers for the small amount of alleged crop damage done by black bears, in return for not opening bear hunting.

When Democrat Martin O'Malley became governor, he let the bear killing continue. HSUS sponsored public protests on Lawyer's Mall, ran TV spots, sought news coverage and sent emails and letters to his office from those opposed to the hunt; but it all fell on deaf ears.

There are some facts Gov. Larry Hogan should understand before he allows another hunt.

DNR never produced scientific evidence supporting a need for holding a generalized bear hunting season in Western Maryland. DNR's Black Bear Task Force sanctioned the hunt, even though public comments overwhelmingly opposed it.

DNR says bear hunting is necessary to slow bear population growth, yet they don't know the population. All they can say is we currently have 1,000-plus adult bears in Maryland. So much for scientific accuracy. Regardless, our bears have almost 2,200 square miles to roam in Western Maryland with a rare errant bear losing its way east into suburbia.

DNR also claims that less than 5 percent of the bears killed are cubs; but this appears to not be based on the definition of a bear cub being used by black bear experts and other professionals in the U.S. and Canada, which is "as long as (the bear) is with their mother… about 18 months."

Using that definition, data obtained from DNR under a Freedom of Information Act Request by HSUS for the 2007 hunt found at least 37 percent killed were cubs. Data I obtained from the 2012 hunt showed 41 percent or more were cubs, all being one year old or less.

Multiple surveys conducted over several years by an independent survey firm hired by HSUS showed most Marylanders opposed bear hunting. DNR ignored those results and instead relied on opposite results from a survey conducted by the same polling company it has hired repeatedly.

Children are allowed to kill our bears, too, if they have a hunting license and bear lottery ticket. In 2012, a 7-year-old girl became the youngest to shoot and kill a bear; she later posed for a picture with the dead animal.

And finally, consider this: How dangerous are black bears? Occasionally rogue bears are problematic, but not enough for random sport killing. A former secretary of DNR once wrote that the "mere presence of a bear does not constitute a public safety concern" and said the agency was ready to respond immediately, should a bear become a problem.

In other words, we don't need trophy killing. Tell this to Governor Hogan, and also mention that while our bears have no votes, we do.

E. Joseph Lamp was a commissioner on the Wildlife Advisory Commission of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources from 1998 to 2012. His email is J19lamp@comcast.net.

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