Maryland's political black eye darkens next week when our state politicians again allow recreational killing of Maryland's black bears in Western Maryland. But with your vote and mine, we can stop this disgrace. Here's what's happened.
This year Maryland issued 750 bear hunting permits. Even children can hunt, unsupervised. There's no requirement for knowing how to shoot a weapon either.
Hunters can use high-powered rifles, or bows and arrows for killing and wounding all bears including cubs and females for trophy heads, body mounts, and rugs. Data collected show almost four out of 10 bears killed previously were less than one year old.
Bear hunting is a win-win for our Department of Natural Resource's Wildlife and Heritage Division (DNR-WHD) and their political cronies in the Maryland legislature. It provides DNR-WHD's key audience — the mere two percent of Marylanders who hunt — another "big game" animal to kill, and it generates additional revenue.
Supportive state politicians benefit from hunters' votes and, more important, from donations from pro-hunting groups. It's big business.
Bear hunting began in 2004, with DNR giving no evidence it was needed, rejecting polls showing the majority of Marylanders opposed it, and turning down offers to pay for alleged bear damage in lieu of hunting. Their pal, then-Gov. Robert Ehrlich vetoed our Maryland legislative review committee's 12-7 vote against it. The practice then continued under Gov. Martin O'Malley because "There's nothing in it for him" (as a lame duck), I heard from his staff, and Gov. Larry Hogan is another hunter's pal.
Statewide elections are coming soon. Before voting, ask that politician glad-handing at your door if she/he will oppose this bear killing. They can't win my vote by simply lowering bridge/tunnel tolls while letting this black eye continue. Our bears need your vote too — or they get killed for sport without it.
E. Joseph Lamp
The writer is a former member of the Wildlife Advisory Commission through the Maryland Department of Natural Resources