Why does DNR manage the black bear population and what role does the hunting season have in managing this species?
The black bear is a species that is native to Maryland and there are
many positive values associated with the presence of black bears. Possibly no
other eastern wildlife species reflects the true feeling of wildness better than
the black bear. Black bears are an important component of our natural ecosystem.
They are considered an Ďumbrellaí species, meaning that since bears use such a
diversity of habitats throughout their annual life cycle, their presence or
absence can be used as an indicator to identify a particular component of the
habitat that may be missing or degraded. According to a 2004 survey, most
Marylanders appreciate the presence of black bears on the landscape and get a
feeling of satisfaction knowing that bears exist in Maryland, even though they
may never see one in the wild.
Currently, there is a healthy, growing population of black bears throughout
western Maryland (Garrett, Allegany, Washington, and Frederick counties).
Although Marylandís occupied bear habitat is limited to the four western
counties, bear sightings have become more common statewide in the last few years
as young bears travel in search of additional suitable habitats to occupy.
It is a DNR goal to maintain Marylandís black bear population at a level that is
compatible with land use goals and within acceptable social limits. Marylandís
conservative black bear hunting program is a valuable tool used to slow the
growth of the black bear population and slow the natural expansion of the bear
population eastward in the state. Additionally, the bear hunting season offers
the secondary benefit of providing a valuable source of sustainable recreation
to many of Marylandís citizens. In 2010, more than 3,000 people applied for one
of 260 available bear hunting permits.
How many bears are found in Maryland?
Black bears are located primarily in Garrett, Allegany, Washington and Frederick counties. Populations are highest in Garrett County, with bear numbers on the rise in the remaining areas.
The bear population size was last estimated in 2005. At that time, an extensive DNA study was completed in Garrett and Allegany counties. Based on that research and other annual population monitoring surveys, DNR currently estimates that Maryland is home to more than 600 adult and subadult bears.
Did Maryland transplant bears to establish a bear population?
No. Maryland has never transplanted bears in an effort to establish a bear population.
How big do bears get?
Bears are the largest mammal in Maryland. Adult bears usually weigh between 125 and 400 pounds, although bears weighing 600 pounds or more are not uncommon. Adult female black bears achieve a maximum weight of 150 to 300 pounds.
How far do bears travel?
Bears are a wide-ranging animal. Adult females have an average home range of about 13 square miles, while adult males can cover 25 square miles or more. Young bears striking out on their own can travel 100-150 miles in search of new territory.
What do bears eat?
Bears are opportunistic feeders, which means they will eat whatever is easily accessible. Largely vegetarian, common foods include berries, other fruits, acorns, beechnuts, hickory nuts, insects, roots, grasses, reptiles, amphibians, fish and carrion. As the opportunity arises, bears will also eat garbage, agricultural crops and bird food. Bears feed heavily during the fall months in order to increase fat reserves for the upcoming long winter.
I want to see a bear. Can I put out food or bait to attract bears?
No! It is illegal to place food or bait out to attract bears. Attracting bears to areas near people can cause future problems. Feeding bears can create a situation that is unsafe for people and the bear.
Where can I go to see a bear?
Bears are generally solitary animals with large home ranges. They typically inhabit large contiguous tracts of forest land. They are very adaptable animals, however, and may be found just about anywhere in western Maryland.
Why doesnít DNR relocate nuisance bears?
Black Bears are a part of Marylandís natural ecosystem. Most nuisance bear situations can be handled through education. The Wildlife and Heritage Service does not routinely trap nuisance bears. The first step in handling a nuisance bear situation is to help the landowner take appropriate measures to discourage bears from becoming a nuisance. While preventive measures usually provide the desired outcome, persistent bears may require additional measures.
At this point, the Wildlife & Heritage Service may choose other options for dealing with nuisance bears. These options may include the use of dogs to chase the bear from the affected property or trapping and aversively conditioning the nuisance bear on site. Aversive conditioning is a behavior modification tool that uses negative feedback to discourage bears from repeating their nuisance behavior. Negative feedback is given through a combination of pepper spray, nonlethal rubber projectiles fired from a shotgun, and pyrotechnic noisemakers. Trapping and relocating a bear rarely resolves a nuisance situation.
What should I do if I encounter a bear?
- If you encounter a bear that is not aware of your presence, back away and leave the area. Give the bear plenty of room. If you spot a bear cub, remain alert. The cubís mother is sure to be near. Again, back away and leave the area.
- Should you encounter a bear at close range, speak to the bear in a calm, assertive voice. STAY CALM and donít run. Remain upright and back away from the bear. Avoid direct eye contact, as the bear may perceive this as a threat. Again, give the bear plenty of room. Donít crowd the bearís personal space.
- Black bears may exhibit some unique behaviors when they feel their personal space is being threatened. A crowded bear may huff or make a woofing noise at the threat. They may also swat the ground, pop their jaws, or even bluff charge the perceived threat. When a bear bluff charges, it may stop several yards or just a few feet short of the threat. Remember not to run. Stay calm. Remain upright and back away from the bear.
- Bears may also stand upright on their hind legs. This is not a sign of aggression. Bears usually stand upright when they are trying to get a better look at something. Bears rely heavily on their sense of smell, and may stand upright to better determine the source of a new scent.
- It is important to remember that black bear attacks are extremely rare. In Maryland, there are no known cases of a human being attacked by a black bear. By using common sense and good judgment, we can continue to appreciate the natural beauty of these forest animals at a safe distance.
Thereís a bear near my house and it keeps getting in my trash and birdfeeder. What should I do?
Bears will not normally come near homes unless there is something that attracts them to the area. You should make loud noises, such as yelling at the bear or banging pots and pans together, in an effort to scare the bear away. After the bear has left, check around the house and remove anything that could be acting as an attractant. This could be bird food, hummingbird feeders, pet food, garbage, etc.
Do not leave pet food unattended. Take your trash out the morning of pick-up or use a bear proof trash container. Cleaning trash cans with ammonia can help eliminate any attraction.
I have bear damage to my agricultural crops/livestock/beehives. What should I do?
Please contact your local Wildlife and Heritage Service office. You may be eligible for compensation for this damage. It is also possible that you could employ certain techniques to deter bear damage. Your local wildlife representative will be able to provide you with that information. In Garrett County call 301-334-4255, Allegany County call 301-777-2136, Washington and Frederick Counties call 301-842-2702.
Can I shoot a bear if it comes near my house?
It is illegal for an individual to kill a bear unless the bear is attacking livestock or it threatens your life. Under no circumstances should you kill a bear just because it is near your house.