Animal Protection Groups File for "Stay of Execution" for Maryland's Bears

On September 27, as the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (DNR) officially authorized the first trophy hunt of black bears in more than 50 years, The Fund for Animals, The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), and several Maryland residents asked the Prince George's County Circuit Court to stop the bear hunt until it can determine whether the regulations violate Maryland law. The groups have asked for a hearing before October 25, when the bear hunt is scheduled to begin.

The petitioners charged that the DNR's bear hunt regulations violate several Maryland laws, and that the agency failed to provide the public with a sound or plausible rationale for the decision to permit bear hunting and instead relied on faulty science concerning the size of the state's bear population. In addition, the groups stated that the DNR made its decision without first determining the public's views on bears and how they should be managed.

"In their zeal to allow trophy hunters to kill bears for their heads and hides, Governor Ehrlich and his DNR have thumbed their noses at the science, thumbed their noses at the wishes of Maryland citizens, and thumbed their noses at Maryland law," said Michael Markarian, president of The Fund for Animals. An independent poll of statewide voters conducted in August showed that a majority of Marylanders-including those who live closest to bears in western Maryland-oppose the bear hunt. Markarian also noted that the DNR's analysis of the state's bear population was said to be "inappropriate and grossly in error" by an expert statistician.

The Fund for Animals and The HSUS had offered $75,000 to augment the state's educational programs teaching people to solve bear conflicts, and to compensate farmers fully for agricultural damage caused by bears. Governor Ehrlich and the DNR refused the offer. On August 25, the Maryland General Assembly's Joint Committee on Administrative, Executive, and Legislative Review voted 12 to 7 to reject the DNR's proposed regulations, yet Governor Robert Ehrlich and the DNR pushed forward anyway.

"The DNR has changed its rationale for the hunt time and again, first saying it was needed to reduce conflicts with nuisance bears, and then stating that the bear hunt was needed to prevent the growth of the population. Perhaps next week it will decide on some other false excuse," said Wayne Pacelle, president of The HSUS. "Governor Ehrlich and the DNR need to come clean that the only reason they want to kill bears is to appease the NRA and other trophy hunting organizations."

For more information on Maryland's black bears, please visit www.MarylandBears.com. A copy of the petition for review and motion for stay filed today are available on the web at www.MarylandBears.com/docuploads. ",”
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