2008-11-22 / Front Page

BEARS ABUNDANT FOR MONDAY OPENER

Bears like the one Rod Howard shot last season are out there. This bear was taken in the Sartwell Creek area. Live weight of the bear was over 700 pounds. Bears like the one Rod Howard shot last season are out there. This bear was taken in the Sartwell Creek area. Live weight of the bear was over 700 pounds. Bear hunters have been anticipating the 2008 season for several months, with all signs pointing to a banner year. The three-day season opens on Monday.

Last year's under-kill has resulted in the bear population rising to the point that nuisance complaints are too common and the Game Commission would like to see the numbers thinned.

"Every year I say the black bear population can't get any higher, and each year numbers still seem to be greater," noted Wildlife Conservation Officer Mark Fair, who covers southern Potter County. "Bears are everywhere. Everyone who spends some time in this area routinely observes bears."

His colleague for the northern section of the county, Bill Ragosta, agrees.

"I've had far more bear complaints and sightings this summer than during any of the previous 16 years that I've lived in the county, Ragosta said.

Wayne Hunt, WCO for Cameron County, said most of the county is overrun by bruins.

"I have had bear complaints in every part of my district," Hunt said. "The bulk of the complaints are in Emporium Borough, Plank Road Hollow, North Creek, and Old West Creek Road area. Most of the other areas -- such as Truman, Howard Siding, Clear Creek, Rich Valley, Sterling Run, Driftwood, Cameron, and Sinnemahoning -- have sizeable bear populations traditionally." "The area around downtown Emporium has many acres available to hunt bears," Hunt continued. "The north side of Emporium and West Creek should provide bears to those willing to hunt them. There is a mixture of safety zone cooperator property, as well a forest-game cooperator property open to public hunting, but respect the tracts of interspersed private holdings."

Last year's black bear kill was light, due largely to poor weather conditions on the opening day.

Hunters took 2,360 bears by the time the state's slate of bear seasons closed. The pre-hunt population was estimated at 15,000.

There were 3,122 bear kills in 2006, and 4,164 in 2005, the state's highest bear kill.

Mark Ternent, Game Commission black bear biologist, expects a bear harvest of about 3,500 if good weather prevails.

"It may be more if there is snowcover," Ternent added. "License sales indicate that the number of bear hunters may be up this year."

Last year, top three counties in bear kills were: Clinton, 171; Lycoming, 139; and Tioga, 121.

John Dzemyan, Game Commission land manager for Elk and McKean counties, suggests that hunters concentrated on areas with lots of mast, especially acorns, nearby.

"Hunt areas where plenty of bear hunters move about, which, in turn, moves the bears about," Dzemyan advised. "Look for bears in the thickest cover you can find, such as swamps and bogs, mountain laurel/rhododendron thickets, north-facing slopes, regenerating timberharvest areas, wind-blown areas with lots of downed trees, and remote sections of river bottoms. Bigger bears are notorious for holding in thick cover, even when hunters pass nearby."

Hunting early and late in the day increases chances to catch bears traveling to and from feeding and bedding areas.

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