This is Bonnie Kelley’s year. The 71-year-old from Accident, Maryland, bagged the season’s first bear in Maryland, a male weighing an estimated 259 pounds when alive. She then field dressed it on private land off Rock Ledge Road in Garrett County.
Biologists originally tagged the bear as a cub two years ago in Savage River State Forest, about six miles from where Bonnie shot it at 8:30 the first morning of hunting season. The Department of Natural Resources reports Bonnie is a long-time hunter who has served on both the Maryland Wildlife Advisory Commission and the first black bear task force.
“The bear population is healthy and growing, Bonnie said. “It is good to see the state’s biologists doing such a wonderful job managing the species.”
Bear season lasts under a week. Bonnie was one of only 450 hunters who won the lottery for permit in Western Maryland.
This is Maryland’s 11th black bear season. The state banned bear hunting in the 1972 when they found bears in danger of disappearing from Maryland. Through conservation efforts, the bear population grew and they are no longer endangered. Now, the state works to keep the population under control through limited hunting.
Maryland hunters bagged 69 bears during the four day season. That’s under last year’s record of 94, but it was within the 10-year harvest average for the annual hunt.
The Maryland DNR is also warning outdoor lovers and hikers to be aware of increased black bear activity this time of year. Falling temperatures means bears are trying to stuff themselves prior to hibernation. And they’ll wander into people-areas looking for food.
The bears may also be seen wandering across roads, mainly in Western Maryland, during October and November. Just remember, they’re cute but hungry and dangerous.
DNR recommends you delay feeding birds until bears starting entering their dens in mid-November. Most bears will be in full hibernation by mid-December.
Click to read more about Maryland bears.