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Legislative Bear Wrangling Could put Bruins in Baltimore

Legislation under consideration in Annapolis would force the introduction of wild black bears into each of Maryland’s 23 counties. But don’t grab your shotgun before taking the trash out just yet - the lawmakers involved admit the bill is little more than a political bluff, designed to beat back the advances of liberal legislators who would do away with Maryland’s annual black bear hunt.

At issue is the fate of Maryland’s apparently burgeoning population of black bears: Will they continue to be managed/harvested through a controversial state hunting lottery, be allowed to breed and expand their territory without the intervening hand of man or will they be plucked from their scant remaining habitat and redistributed to each and every county in the state?

These are the options on the table and, beginning Wednesday afternoon during an Environmental Matters Committee hearing in Annapolis, the Maryland General Assembly will ponder House Bill 762 - legislation giving the state 7 years to establish a population of black bears in each of Maryland’s 23 counties.

Del. Wendell Beitzel, a Republican representing Allegany and Garrett counties, is tired of the Beltway politicians acting like they know what’s best for his constituents out in the furthest reaches of western Maryland. Out where people get their local news from Pittsburgh and root for Steel Town sports teams. Out where the snow is measured in feet rather than inches. Out in bear country, where black bears are a legitimate nuisance and everyday threat to livelihood, rather than the relict symbol of enduring wildness they have become in metropolitan and suburban Maryland.

Thus the battle lines are drawn.

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