Black Bear Population Study

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A new scientific survey of Maryland's black bear population from Cumberland to the western border of the state has resulted in a population estimate of 227 bears. Department of Natural Resources (DNR) biologists estimate the population east of Cumberland to be about 100 bears.

The new survey utilized DNA technology to identify individual bears feeding at more than 100 bait sites in Western Maryland, from Cumberland west. Computer analysis of the data, using software designed to estimate wildlife populations from capture-recapture studies, was used to develop the population estimate.

"With an increasing population we have seen an increase in nuisance bear problems, many of which have been resolved through our expanded outreach and education program," DNR Secretary Sarah Taylor-Rogers said. "We are seeing, however, some black bears which appear to have lost much of their fear of humans. These bears warrant concern, and the department's rapid response teams trap, tag and aversively condition these bears. Bears which repeat behavior indicating a loss of fear of humans will either be trapped and relocated or euthanized."

While killing black bears is against the law, the law provides exceptions for situations in which a person's life is threatened, or pets or livestock are threatened on their property.

"The results of this survey as well as the increase in bear human conflicts and continued agricultural damage, warrant a review of the State's bear management plan which was adopted in 1992," Dr. Taylor-Rogers said. "To conduct that review, this summer I will appoint a new Black Bear Advisory Committee, with broad representation both geographically and philosophically. I will ask the committee to review the data and assess the changes in the population as well as bear/human impacts over the last 10 years. The committee will review all aspects of black bear management in Maryland, solicit public opinion, and make recommendations regarding management of this important species."

The committee will include individuals affected by the bear population, including local farmers, citizens and vacation rental real estate agents, as well as representatives of other interested groups including sportsmen, animal rights organizations, environmental groups, the Wildlife Advisory Committee and legislators.

Black bears are a large ranging animal, and Maryland's population is just a small part of the regional population in Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia and Pennsylvania. Male bears have a home range of up to 25 square miles, resulting in some animals residing in two or more states. In Maryland, the home range of female bears is approximately 13 square miles.