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Animals In Print
The On-Line Newsletter

From 4 July 2004 Issue

Money offered to call off bear hunt 

Cash-Strapped DNR Refuses $75,000

Money offered to call off bear hunt

It’s not every day you turn down $75,000, especially when you’re a state agency on a starvation budget.

That’s exactly what Maryland Department of Natural Resources did. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t try to keep the money.

To stop Maryland’s first hunt for black bears in more than half a century, the Fund for Animals and the Humane Society offered DNR $75,000. The money, wrote the animal welfare groups in their March 17 offer, would enable the department to “pay one-hundred-percent compensation to Maryland’s farmers for all eligible bear damage claims through the Black Bear Compensation Program.”

Farmers lose between $10,000 and $40,000 per year to bears. The remainder of the donation would be earmarked for education programs.
  In return, DNR would have to call off the hunt.

“If the plan for a recreational bear hunt is withdrawn, the Fund and HSUS will collectively contribute up to $75,000 to the DNR for a program centered on bear damage compensation and bear-human conflict management,” stated the March letter to Paul Peditto, director of DNR’s Wildlife and Heritage Service.

“This was quite clearly not a legitimate offer,” said Peditto. “This was a bribe to cancel the bear hunt.”

The department “rejected the stipulation that the bear hunting season be canceled,” according to a press release. The department didn’t, however, reject the money.

“While we may not agree on the hunting regulation proposal, I hope that the Fund for Animals and Humane Societies of the United States’ commitment to assist us is sincere and that we can count on their financial and philosophical support,” said Peditto.

“That they’ll take the money,” said Michael Markarian, president of the Fund for Animals. “But refuse to meet the agreement is outrageous and clearly illustrates that DNR is not interested in helping farmers whose property is being destroyed.”

Peditto, in turn, accused the animal welfare groups of hypocrisy. “If these groups really wanted to help,” he said, “it would have been nice if they offered the money when we came up short raising money for the stamp fund, which is the only way we can legally compensate farmers.”

The Black Bear Conservation Stamp, a take-off on the very successful federal duck stamp program, is sold to raise money to reimburse farmers for bear damage. But this stamp didn’t take flight, and proceeds failed to cover farmers’ claims. In 2001, when $36,389 were claimed in damages, stamp funds covered only $21,833, or 60 percent, of those claims.

The Fund for Animals and the Humane Society rejected what Markarian called DNR’s “money grab.”

“It is clear that DNR is not seeking to solve bear conflicts in western Maryland,” added Markarian, “but simply to put bears in trophy hunters’ sights.”

Countered Peditto: “We’ve worked our butts off to provide non-lethal help to agricultural communities.”

In spite of the bad blood, Markarian said “the offer stands.”

—Louis Llovio

To halt Maryland’s new black bear hunting season — enacted to cull nuisance ursines — the Fund for Animals and the Humane Society have offered DNR $75,000 to augment revenues generated by sales of the Black Bear Conservation Stamp. Funds from the stamps reimburse farmers for lost produce or livestock, but not enough stamps were sold to cover last year’s damages.

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