2011-11-19 / Front Page

BEAR NECESSITY

Hunters help keep growing bruin population in check


Incredible encounters like this with bears are becoming more and more common in the area, thanks to shrinking bear habitat and expanding human development. Mary Kay McLean got this photo in her back yard in Shippen Township, Cameron County when a mother and two of her cubs scampered up a tree in her yard two weeks ago. Incredible encounters like this with bears are becoming more and more common in the area, thanks to shrinking bear habitat and expanding human development. Mary Kay McLean got this photo in her back yard in Shippen Township, Cameron County when a mother and two of her cubs scampered up a tree in her yard two weeks ago. With bear-human conflfl icts on the rise and black bear populations at modern era highs, the Pennsylvania Game Commission has made two moves in the past two years to reduce bear numbers in Pennsylvania.

Last year, the fifirst day of the hunt was moved from Monday to Saturday in an effort to get more hunters afifield. This year, the season was extended from three days to four, giving sportsmen another full day of opportunity.

According to a recent PGC survey, some fifive percent of the state’s population report having at least a minor run-in with black bears. And while about half of those conflflicts can be attributed to homeowner negligence— poorly-timed bird feeding and poorly protected garbage containers— there’s plenty of other evidence that suggests that the number of bears roaming in and around populated areas is steadily increasing.

“What this survey tells us is that most local bear populations appear to be at or slightly above social carrying capacity, which is the population threshold where people no longer desire more bears,” said Mark Ternent, Game Commission bear biologist.

Sportsmen have been doing their part to keep the population in check. Last year, roughly 3,100 were harvested statewide.

That’s a lot of bears, but more impressive is the size of some of the bears being harvested in Pennsylvania.

In 2010, 10 of the heaviest bears killed in the state weighed over 615 pounds. The biggest tipped the scales at 875 pounds.

And this year, with bears doing as well as ever and even increasing their range across the state, “the possibility of another 800-pounder being taken by a hunter is always in play,” Ternent said.

Since 2000, hunters have bagged more than 3,000 bears most years, including the current record harvest of 4,164 animals back in 2005. Each year, several worldclass trophy black bears with estimated live weights of 600 to 700 pounds or more are also taken.

Hunters killed bears in 54 counties last year, up from 49 in 2007. The overall harvest, meanwhile, was the fifth-best on record.

In 2010, the local hunt was down slightly with hunters taking 148 bears in Potter County and 138 in Cameron County.

All hunters who kill a bear must immediately tag it and transport the carcass to a Game Commission bear check station within 24 hours.

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