Georgia Looking To Change Bear Hunt Regs

Georgia DNR, Bear Hunting Magazine

Georgia wildlife officials will be considering whether to change the rules for controversial middle Georgia black bear hunts. The first open hunt for these bears on private land in Bibb, Houston and Twiggs counties was held in 2011, when about 10% of the entire areas black bear population was harvested in one day. Two wildlife management areas that are the core of the bear’s habitat were excluded from the hunt.

In 2011, 34 bears were taken, all in Twiggs County. In 2012, 14 bears were taken, most of them in the same area but one in eastern Bibb County. Both years, multiple bears were taken illegally and at least half of those harvested were females. This has concerned local conservationists and some game managers. On a side note, last year there were seven middle Georgia bears killed by vehicles as well.

University of Georgia researchers are in the midst of a three-year study intended to better estimate the total size of the population in this area of the state, learn about cub birth and survival rates, and examine bear movements around the portion of Georgia 96 being widened. As part of the study, 38 bears were trapped between the end of May and the middle of October, and 31 were fitted with radio collars.

Some of the bears that were caught in the Tarversville area where harvested during the hunts. The Georgia DNR had stated that they expected to use preliminary results from the population part of the study to form the bear hunting rules for the area. But the results will not be available until at least late spring, about a month too late for the normal schedule of setting hunting regulations.

The state's DNR will draft regulations in the next few months and a public comment period, including public meetings, will be held in April. If some bear population results arrive before the DNR board sets final hunting regulations in May, it is possible the bear hunting portion of the rules could be revised.

At this point the DNR will draft the black bear season rules based on the last two hunts, the biology of the species and public comments. The state will continue accepting public comments through this Friday.

Below is a summarization of the comments about bear season that DNR has so far received:
•Five commenters asked to limit bear hunting through the use of bear tags, like a quota hunt;
•Four asked for a more regulated bear season using quotas;
•Three asked for the length of the bear season to be extended;
•One asked for the bear season to run about six weeks, concurrent with primitive weapons deer season;
•One asked for Bleckley County to be included in the hunt area;
•And one asked that the hunt be moved to December.

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