In the rugged terrains of Allegany, Frederick, Garrett, and Washington counties, Maryland hunters successfully harvested 103 black bears during the 20th annual black bear hunt, held from October 23 to October 28. The Maryland Department of Natural Resources released the official figures, revealing a harvest of 40 male and 63 female bears, with an additional nine bears taken under agricultural damage permits between September 1 and October 31.
The 2023 black bear hunt presented its share of challenges, as warm daytime temperatures and abundant natural food sources in the woods made bears less conspicuous. Despite these hurdles, hunters achieved the same harvest numbers as the previous year, showcasing their skill and adaptability in locating bears during the weeklong season.
The daily harvest remained consistent throughout the hunting period, with many hunters attributing their success to the strategic location of hickory or white oak stands. However, the 2023 harvest of 103 bears was slightly below the previous 5-year average of 111 bears, indicating the impact of environmental factors on bear movement and visibility.
Karina Stonesifer, the Director of Wildlife and Heritage Service, acknowledged the challenges hunters face and emphasized the importance of bear hunting as a management strategy to address human-bear conflicts within the black bear range. Stonesifer noted, “Bear hunting is not only a passion for many hunters, but is a crucial management strategy to mitigate human/bear conflict throughout the black bear range.”
Breaking down the numbers from the 2023 Maryland Black Bear Hunt, the majority of the harvest, 78 bears, came from Garrett County, followed by 8 from Allegany County, 12 from Washington County, and 5 from Frederick County. The average weight of the bears harvested was 166 pounds, with the heaviest bear, taken in Garrett County, estimated to weigh a substantial 643 pounds.
Private land played a significant role in the hunt, with 65% of bears harvested on private properties. The popularity of the hunt was evident as 4,559 hunters applied for permits, and 950 permits were ultimately awarded.
For those seeking more information on black bear management in Maryland, the Department of Natural Resources has comprehensive details on its website. The black bear hunt serves as a recreational activity. It plays a crucial role in maintaining a balance in bear populations and minimizing conflicts between humans and bears in the region.
As Maryland’s black bear hunt concludes its 20th year, hunters and conservationists alike reflect on the delicate balance required to manage the black bear population and ensure the coexistence of wildlife and human communities in the state.