Not too many years ago, black bears were an endangered species in Maryland. For 2016, the population has grown such that the Free State will double its hunting counties from two to four, including in the fairly urban Frederick county. Bear populations are thriving throughout the east, and it may be time to help the bears help themselves by issuing a few super tags to help fund the animal’s conservation. A Super Bear tag could be offered in three ways similar to special licenses for elk, sheep, and other species out West.
- 1. Offer the bear tag at an auction at a sporting show and online. The highest bidder(s) would get to hunt bear throughout the regular deer season by any means that is legal for deer — archery, muzzleloader, and rifle. If a bear is harvested, the animal would be weighed and forensic data taken by the DNR.
- 2. Hold a Super Bear lottery. In this model, hunters can buy lottery tickets for $10–20 with the proceeds earmarked for a special DNR project that benefits the bear population.
- 3. Offer a Super Bear tag at a grossly exaggerated price (such as $1,000) on a first-come-first-served basis, up to ten percent of the average harvest. This allows those who are very keen about bear hunting to participate without bumping too many hunters from the regular season.
This proposal is modeled after other methods of raising money for animal conservation across the United States, and the time may be right to get the ball rolling in the East. Because bear seasons are limited in many states, hunters strive for any bear that’s legal, rather than using the Quality Deer Management philosophy that has worked successfully with deer. A Super Bear tag would focus on old bears and dry sows due the larger size of these animals and the extended period in which they can be hunted. What do you think?
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