Bear Non-Hunting Deaths Up In WV

The Herald, Bear Hunting Magazine

Along with West Virginias record harvest of 1,804 black bears during the combined archery and firearms seasons of 2007 came another less distinctive record. Division of Natural Resources officials say more than 200 black bears were killed because of nuisance behavior and other non-hunting causes.

A DNR report said Raleigh County led the state in nuisance bear calls last year, with Greenbrier and Nicholas counties coming in second and third.

DNR bear biologist Christopher W. Ryans report in the states Big Game Bulletin for 2007 indicated last years harvest was not only the highest on record (a 6 percent increase over 2006) but also the first time the kill topped 1,800 bears.

A number of different factors contributed to the record harvest of 2007, Ryan wrote. The statewide spotty mast (food sources) helped archery hunters (have their second-highest harvest on record) and the incredible bear population and the average weather conditions in most of (last) December enabled gun hunters to have their second-highest harvest on record.

In addition, hunters harvested bears in many non-traditional counties in the western, southern and eastern portions of the state that added to the harvest. This years harvest (2007) combined with non-hunting mortalities set the record of 2,032 known bear deaths in the Mountain State.

Non-hunting bear mortalities increased 98 percent over 2006 statistics. There were 62 deaths from vehicles in 2007 compared to 61 in 2006. The number of illegal kills was down from eight in 2006 to four in 2007. However, the number of bears killed from nuisance behavior was up 155 in 2007 compared to 36 in 2006.

Some DNR wildlife officials said the lack of food sources helped drive bears into more urban areas of the state last year, which contributed to the 436 percent increase in nuisance bear kills. A decrease in nuisance bear calls this year most likely is because of better mast condition, officials said.

A bear hunting expert, Ronald Warner, believes individuals who feed bears from their front porches were also a major reason so many nuisance bears were killed last year.

When people put feed out for the bears, they become tamer and will start coming around to look for more, Warner said by phone Friday. And when the people get tired of seeing the bear around, or it starts to get closer to the house, then they call the DNR to take care of it.

Warner said bear damage at his Pocahontas farm near Cheat Mountain has been negligible this year and he has only seen one sheep killed by bears.

Theres been plenty of food for the bears in the wild this year, said Warner who has been hunting bears since he was five years-old. There were plenty of berries and apples and right now theres plenty of cherry and oak nuts. Its made a big difference for the bears.

In comparison, Virginia wildlife officials stated they issued 95 bear kill permits in 2007 that resulted in 120 bears killed, and 12 other bears were euthanized. In 2008 so far, 19 Virginia bears have been euthanized.

The Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries has established nuisance bear guidelines that promote public safety, protect property and conserve bear populations, black bear project leader Jaime L. Sajecki said by phone Friday. Whenever possible, the departments approach to managing problem bears encourages the co-existence of bears and humans. The specific response to nuisance bear problems is determined by public concerns, public safety, type and extent of damage, black bear biology, animal welfare and available control methods.

The number of damage claims in West Virginia increased 52 percent over last year, which resulted in total payments of $188,004 to reimburse owners for property damage. That was a 92 percent increase over the $98,089 paid out in 2006, according to the report. Claims were reported in 29 counties in 2007 and 30 counties in 2006.

DNR employees received a record 1,598 nuisance bear calls in 2007, Ryan said. The top counties with the most complaints were Raleigh (288), Greenbrier (179), Nicholas (142), Kanawha (108), Fayette (105) and Boone (97).

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