Friday, February 15, 2008

Beitzel Introduces "Share The Bear" Bill Once Again

Beitzel Introduces "Share The Bear" Bill Once Again

Feb. 14, 2008

Del. Wendell R. Beitzel (RGarrett and Allegany counties) introduced HB 762, "Natural Resources Black Bears Establishment of Population in Each County," this week in the Maryland General Assembly. The bill, which seeks to establish a bear population in each county in the state, is in response to Del. Barbara Frush's (DAnne Arundel and Prince George's) filing of HB 657.

Frush's bill seeks to classify the black bear as a non-game mammal and to put a moratorium on bear hunting in Maryland.

A similar bill to Beitzel's HB 762 was originally introduced by then-Del. George C. Edwards in 2005. The Edwards bill was also in response to a bill submitted by Frush to ban bear hunting in Maryland. Edwards is now a senator in the General Assembly.

Beitzel's bill will be heard in front of the House Environmental Matters Committee and has been scheduled for a hearing at 1 p.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 27.

"Del. Frush and several of her colleagues do not want a bear hunt in Maryland," Beitzel said. "If they are successful in their efforts, then something must be done to control the bear population in western Maryland. My plan does just that.

"Under my legislation, the Department of Natural Resources can distribute the bears throughout the rest of the state so that everyone can experience the 'joys' of living with bears," Beitzel said.

The provisions of the his bill would require the DNR to capture bears that live in over-populated areas of western Maryland, and distribute them throughout the state. The DNR has determined that all counties in Maryland have locations that are suitable for bear habitat, according to Beitzel.

"Many people who aren't from western Maryland think that bears are cute and friendly, but this isn't always the case," said Sen. Edwards. "There are nuisance bears that not only destroy property, but also potentially pose a serious threat to people and pets. We need to make sure that people down here know that it is essential to manage the bear population, whether it's by a hunt or the plan we presented."

According to a report by the Maryland Department of Natural Resources, 51 bears were taken during the 2007 bear hunt in Maryland. In addition to those bears, more than 40 bears were reported to have been hit by vehicles on the highway statewide.

Until the 2004-2005 hunting season, a ban on hunting black bears had been in effect since 1953. The bear hunt has received national attention and has since been a source of controversy.

During the most recent bear hunt, a black bear weight record was established for Maryland. Coty Jones, a 20-year-old woman from the state's Eastern Shore, harvested a black bear that weighed more than 600 pounds.

"This bill is important to not only the people of Garrett and Allegany counties, but also should be a concern for those who genuinely have an interest in the preservation of the bear population in Maryland," Beitzel said about HB 762.

He encourages anyone wanting more information on this subject to contact him in Annapolis at 1-800-492-7122, ext. 3435.


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