Black Bear 2008 Season Begins

It won’t be long until black bear season gets underway again for the new season. It kicks off Monday, Nov. 24 and end Wednesday, Nov. 26, statewide. During this three-day hunt, a hunter can harvest one bear per license year. A bear license is required.

According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, Black Bear numbers have substantially increased in Pennsylvania, from around 4,000 in the 1970’s to around 14,000 today. A dramatic growth has provided more opportunities for people to see bears, which is an experience many treasure, and bear hunting has greatly improved.

A few weeks ago when I was watching members of Forbes Trail Trout Unlimited plant trees along Mill Creek, one of the participants and I got to talking about bears. He educated me to the fact that near his property he has been observing a bear cub playing in the wooded area not far from his house.

But that isn’t the only sighting of these large animals. They are almost so common now that people don’t find it as amazing as was the case in the past that these four-legged creatures are popping up everywhere.

Today, almost three times as many hunters are harvesting bears – with considerably less travel required to reach them – than 30 years ago. In 2004, hunters took 2,972 bears from 53 counties. This ranks as the fourth largest bear kill since record keeping began in 1915. Further, the state’s six largest bear harvest have occurred during the past seven years.

This increase in bear numbers and range, however, has also brought an increase in conflicts with bears. Property damage, the likelihood of serious human injury, personnel resources within the Game Commission who respond to conflicts, and public’s tolerance for further growth of the bear population have all be impacted by the increase in bears.

Nuisance bear conflicts have increased more dramatically in the northeast than probably anywhere else in the state. In the late 1990’s Wildlife Conservation Officers in the 13 counties that compose our Northeast Region were responding to about 600 bear complaints annually. In 2000, bear complaints in the region climbed to 813; the following year they exceeded 1,000, and in 2002 they numbered more than 1,100.

Last year, you may recall, I wrote a column on the havoc these animals are causing across the state. In it I noted many of PGC’s Black Bear Biologist’s Mark Ternent observations.

He stated, “As fall progresses, bears will begin their food intake to prepare for the upcoming denning season which begins in mid to late November. For some bears, the search for food may lead them closer to people or homes.”

He went on to add, “Pennsylvanians need to understand that when bears become habituated to getting food from people, it can lead to conflicts, property damage and the possibility of injury or eventual destruction of the bear. Feeding wildlife, whether the activity is intended for birds or deer, can draw bears into an area. Once they become habituated to an area where they find food, they will continue to return, which is when the bear can become a real problem for homeowners and neighbors,” he said.

Although harvest has greatly increased, it appears to have remained within acceptable limits. Agency personnel capture and ear tag 500 or more bears annually, of which 20 percent usually get harvested in the 3-day season. The percentage being removed in areas with additional hunting opportunity has ranged from 23 to 25 percent, which is a rate that is believed to be safe in some bear populations.

A record number of bear hunting licenses were sold in each of the last three years. Approximately 2,500 hunters purchased a license in 2002. One year later, the number increased to 4,500. So, it be seen, that there is a growing demand for licenses.

It must be noted that the PGC has tagging and reporting requirements if one should be blessed by harvesting this animal.

According to the Hunter and Trapping Digest, “A successful bear hunter must complete all information on a tag and attach it to the head (ear) of the animal immediately after harvest and before the carcass is moved. In addition, within 24 hours each hunter who harvests a bear must take the animal, along with his hunting license and bear license to a Game Commission check station for examination. Bears should be field-dressed before being brought to a check station, as Game Commission personnel do not need to examine reproductive tracts. Once one has used his tag, it is unlawful to possess it in the field. Also, please remember to remove the old hunting license from the holder before placing the current license in it to prevent accidentally using a tag from a previous year to tag one’s bear and unintentially violate the law.”

Article by:
Paul J. Volkmann (October 30, 2008)
Outdoors 11/21/2008
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