FROSTBURG – Hunters being briefed Sunday afternoon before this week’s bear hunt were lectured on more than just rules and regulations. They were lectured on the best way to return the bears’ tooth, tissue and organ samples to the Department of Natural Resources.
“If you can locate the bladder, you can locate the female reproductive tract,” said Harry Spiker, the DNR’s black bear project leader, to a room full of hunters, many already sporting camouflage. “It’s really easy to remove.”
The state called this week’s hunt to manage the growing bear population, but it is using the hunters as research assistants – to collect difficult-to-obtain samples to aid future studies.
The 381 hunters in the field Monday, said Spiker, will help his agency learn more about disease and reproductive rates.
“Hunters absolutely . . . help our management efforts. We collect data we could not have otherwise, with their help.”
By retrieving female reproductive tracts, he said, they can determine the bears’ population growth rate. With teeth, they determine age. With tissue samples, they can study disease.
“That could lead, hopefully, . . . should any outbreaks happen, to identify a way to fix the problem,” he said.
“We collected a number of samples,” said Cindy Driscoll, the DNR’s state wildlife veterinarian.
She said the data from the generally healthy bears could help scientists track trends in populations and compare Maryland’s bears to those in other states.
“That ensures the safety and the health of the population over the long haul,” said Spiker.