Kentucky Set To Add Limited Bear Hunting Season

Licenses would cost $30 for season that would span Dec. 19-20, 2009., Bear Hunting Magazine

Though small in number, black bears have become a nuisance in some Appalachian communities, chasing tourists from campsites, eating from backyard trash cans and emptying dog food bowls on back porches. Now the bears could be fair game for hunters next year.

The Kentucky Wildlife Commission has agreed to a proposal to open a limited hunting season on the pesky bears, the target of complaints filed with wildlife officers. The proposal, which now goes to a legislative committee for review, is drawing opposition from animal rights groups, including the Humane Society of the United States.

Andrew Page, head of the Humane Society's Wildlife Abuse Campaign, argues that the state's bear population is too small and fragile to support hunting.

Wildlife biologist Steven Dobey, head of Kentucky's black bear restoration program, said a recently completed study found between 90 and 130 bears in four counties; Bell, Harlan, Letcher and Pike that are thought to have the largest populations.

The wildlife commission voted last week to allow a two-day hunt in three of those counties; Harlan, Letcher and Pike. Karen Alexy, wildlife director for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, said hunters would be allowed to kill only ten bears. Licenses would cost $30 each for the season that will span Dec. 19-20, 2009.

Rick Allen, head of the Kentucky League of Sportsmen, says a hunting season is in the best interest of bears because it will instill a fear of humans that will drive them deeper into the forests. It's important to keep the fear in these bears, to keep the natural fear of humans, so they won't be getting into trouble, digging into people's trash, he said.

Wildlife officers have received regular complaints of bears scavenging for food at campsites and homesteads. And at a state park near Prestonsburg last year, a bear held tourists at bay inside a cabin until rangers arrived to chase it away. More than a century ago, bears thrived in the mountain region, but over-hunting led to their disappearance. Over the past 20 years, they have been venturing back into Kentucky from the forests of Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia. The bears join elk, deer and turkey as species now flourishing in the mountain region.

Twenty-seven states allow some form of black bear hunting, including neighboring Virginia and West Virginia.

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