Timothy Jacobsen  /  AP
A dead black bear is removed after being weighed Monday at a Maryland hunting station.
updated 10/26/2004 9:52:03 AM ET 2004-10-26T13:52:03

Maryland’s first bear hunt in 51 years started — and surprisingly ended — in a day.

As of 8 p.m. Monday, 20 dead black bears had been registered at Department of Natural Resources checking stations, according to the DNR kill tally hot line. Officials then called a halt to any more killing.

Calling the one-day harvest rate “overwhelming,” and expressing concern that allowing the bear hunt to continue a second day would exceed the 30-bear limit, the DNR refused to allow the hunt to continue.

The deadline for registering Monday’s kills is Tuesday afternoon.

“While we regret any inconvenience, our first responsibility is to manage Maryland’s natural resources, and we were concerned that opening the hunt a second day would put us over our conservative harvest target of 30 bears, and potentially jeopardize future hunts and black bear management opportunities,” said Paul Peditto, director of the wildlife and heritage service for DNR.

Idea was for six days
The hunt in far western Maryland was scheduled to last six days.

The first kill, an 84-pound female less than a year old, was claimed by David Ciekot, a freelance outdoor writer from the Eastern Shore. Ciekot, 35, said he probably will have the bear mounted.

“It’s a pretty neat thrill. It’s pretty historic to get the first one in Maryland in modern times,” Ciekot said. He added that he wasn’t bothered by the animal’s small size.

“They wanted the bears taken for management reasons, so I was going to take whatever came by. I was actually kind of happy it wasn’t too big and we didn’t have to drag a 500-pound bear out of the woods,” he said.

Harry Spiker, the DNR’s black bear project manager, said the small animal was “proof in hand that we did not design this hunt as a trophy hunt. This is a management hunt, and this certainly is fulfilling our purpose."

Activists see 'trophy hunt'
But Pierre Grzybowski, grass-roots coordinator for The Fund for Animals, said Ciekot’s kill proved that “bear hunters are so eager to shoot a bear that they will shoot any bear they come across. And regardless of the size of the bear, it’s a trophy hunt nonetheless.”

Animal-welfare advocates dispute the state’s population estimate of 500 bears, compared with a handful in the 1950s. They also disagree with the DNR’s assertion that the hunt is needed to reduce human-bear conflicts, such as the 17 highway deaths of bears in Maryland this year.

Spiker said 381 people were participating in the tightly regulated hunt, including 183 permit-holders chosen by lottery, 149 companions and 49 landowners who could join teams hunting on their property.

Of the 28 states with bear hunts, 11 allow baiting and 17 permit use of hounds. Maine is the only state where bait, dogs and traps are permitted. Maryland officials proposed the hunt in February and the final regulation went into effect Sept. 27.

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