Despite Record Harvests, Bear Numbers High

Chattanoogan, Bear Hunting Magazine
12/29/2008

Despite the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency (TWRA) recording a new all time record harvest for black bears in the state, state wildlife officials said East Tennessee has about as many bears as the area can handle without problems.

Were pretty close to a saturation point to what the region can support, said Greg Wathen, chief of wildlife for the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.

Officials have noted a rise in recent bear nuisance reports, including a mauling injury in August in the Great Smoky Mountains and a mauling fatality two years ago in the Cherokee National Forest in Polk County. As a result, Mr. Wathen said the agency has been adjusting its bear hunting seasons.

Weve been lengthening our seasons and offering other hunting opportunities, he said. "For example, officials have added a season during which hunters can use bows and arrows to kill bears," he said.

Allen Ricks of TWRAs office in Morristown stated that the bear population in the tri-state mountain region of Tennessee, Georgia and North Carolina is the highest its been in 100 years, and the bears are quite mobile  going where the food is. He said there is no way to estimate the number of bears living in the wild.

David Gregory, a wildlife biologist with the Georgia Department of Resources, said the bear population of North Georgia also has been climbing steadily.

Mr. Gregory said officials have not finished their seasons harvest count as the season is not officially over yet, but he is sure the number will be high for the Peach State, as well.

We have base station surveys that tell us the trend is up, and pretty much every year its been increasing. Our harvests also keep going up every year, and our nuisance calls keep going up every year."

In all of North Georgia, Mr. Gregory said, there were more than 1,000 bear nuisance calls in the past year. He said his regions 19-county Northwest Georgia region accounted for about 600 of those calls.



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