ANNAPOLIS – A House panel Friday approved a plan allowing landowners to kill nuisance bears and opened the door to a Sunday deer hunt.
The original bruin bill before the House Environmental Matters Committee established a limited black bear hunting season. The panel Friday voted 13-8 to send to the House floor a dilute version creating a “black bear management permit program.”
Under the proposal, the Department of Natural Resources would issue permits to landowners who can demonstrate their property has been damaged or their lives or livestock threatened.
But the landowners must first show they have taken reasonable preventive measures against the nuisance bear.
The department will fill in the details of the new regulation and may suspend the program if the bear population is threatened.
“This is not a hunt,” said Delegate George Owings III, D-Anne Arundel, a co-sponsor. “You’re getting a permit to kill a bear only if you meet the criteria. It’s an elimination of a bear that’s causing a problem.”
The original version would have ended Maryland’s 53-year-old ban on bear hunting.
Although the new version is an improvement, the proposal still opens the door for abuse, said Delegate Barbara Frush, D-Prince George’s, later.
“It amounts to trophy hunting,” she said.
The House committee also Friday approved amendments to a deer hunting bill, reducing proposed Sunday hunting for firearms from three days to one. Current state law bans Sunday hunting.
Excluded from the Sunday deer hunt would be Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Howard, Montgomery, Prince George’s and parts of Frederick counties and the cities of Baltimore and Frederick.
The proposal — designed to cull the increasing deer population in Maryland — also would extend the firearms season from 13 to 21 days.
Despite changes in both proposals, the District of Columbia-based Humane Society of the United States remains unsatisfied, said Wayne Pacelle, a senior vice president.
The group adamantly opposes Sunday hunting for any reason, Pacelle said.
“The prohibition on Sunday hunting has been in place since colonial days,” he said. “Even the group we often butt heads with, the Farm Bureau, has a policy against Sunday hunting.”
Now that the bear bill has been narrowed, the Humane Society is concerned it may garner enough support in the House of Delegates to pass, Pacelle said.
Supported by the House leadership, including Speaker Casper R. Taylor Jr., D-Allegany, the bear bill is now stronger, said House Environmental Matters Committee Chairman John A. Hurson, D-Montgomery.
“Some felt the previous bill was establishing a hunt for the purpose of a hunt,” Hurson said. “This works against that.”