Friday, February 3rd, 2023
Friday, February 3rd, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

With DMPs boost, harvest jump likely

Staff report

Albany – A burgeoning black bear population in the Catskills has
prompted DEC officials to propose starting the 2007 bear season two
days earlier in an effort to increase the bear harvest.

The proposal could lead to some confusion among hunters; it
comes less than a month after DEC released its 2007-08 Hunting
& Trapping Regulations Guide and, if approved, would conflict
with the published dates.

‘It’s not an uncommon thing for us to draft regulations changes
after the guide is published,’ DEC wildlife biologist Chuck Dente
said. ‘The (publishing) deadlines on the guide are pretty early,
and they just don’t work for us in a lot of cases. We actually
expanded the Catskill bear season before after the guide was
printed.’

It’s likely the proposal to kick off the black bear season in
concert with the regular Southern Zone deer season opener within
the Catskill Range will be approved. Regulations changes that are
less restrictive in nature generally don’t attract much comment –
or opposition – from sportsmen. That also makes it easier to
implement the regulations from an enforcement standpoint.

‘The word will get out,’ Dente said.

Under the proposal, the black bear season in the Catskill range
would kick off on Nov. 17 – the same day as the opener of the
Southern Zone regular firearms deer season. The move would open
bear hunting on the busiest hunting day of the year.

That said Dente, is by design.

‘Bear bear population in the Catskills is way too high. We’ve
got plenty of bears and we really want to address that,’ he
said.

DEC has previously opened additional Wildlife Management Units
in the region to bear hunting, and also extended the season to
begin on the Monday following the firearms deer opener. Adding the
opening weekend of deer season into the bear season should boost
the bruin harvest significantly.

It’s the second time in three seasons that the agency has
extended the hunting season in the Catskills and surrounding areas
in an effort to stabilize the growing black bear population and
reduce the number of nuisance bear incidents. The Catskills has had
record bear harvests in recent years and has displaced the
Adirondack region as the top bear producer in the state.

‘Black bears are now common throughout the Catskills and
additional bear hunting opportunity is warranted,’ DEC Commissioner
Pete Grannis said.

The official proposal was published in the Sept. 5 edition of
the New York State Register. A 45-day public comment period will
close Oct. 22. The regulation would apply to specially designated
Wildlife Management Units in all or parts of Rockland, Orange,
Ulster, Sullivan, Greene, Albany, Schenectady, Schoharie, Otsego,
Herkimer, Madison, Delaware, Chenango and Broome counties.

For many decades, hunters in the Catskills were able to take
bears during the entire regular deer hunting season. Following
research in the 1970s, the DEC’s wildlife biologists recommended
increasing the Catskill bear population by delaying the start of
the regular hunting season by five days to reduce hunting pressure
on bears. That sent the region’s bruin numbers soaring, from
several hundred to several thousand.

Over the last decade, DEC has documented an increasing trend in
farm and property damage from high numbers of bears. A recent
report (available online at www.dec.ny.gov/animals/7215.html) shows
the black bear population and range has increased steadily since
1995.

A related trend has been the dramatic increase in ‘home entry’
incidents (black bears breaking into a residence to look for food)
over the last five years. Between 2001-03 in the Catskill region,
DEC recorded three to five home entry incidents per year. Over the
next three years, however, there have been between 21 and 45 such
incidents annually. Earlier this month, a Greene County resident
returned to his residence to find a sow and three cubs inside. The
bears quickly fled, but a male bear entered the same residence
twice the same day. The owner hit the bear with a broomstick and
the bear ran away.

In 2003, the state established Black Bear Stakeholder Input
Groups to evaluate the impacts of bears, and to make
recommendations for future bear management in the Catskills. One of
the key recommendations was that the growth of black bear
populations should be slowed and eventually stabilized. That
prompted DEC in 2005 to reduce the lag between deer and bear
seasons to two days from five.

In the past, the opening of deer season and the influx of
hunters into the woods typically drove bears deeper into the
forest. DEC officials said starting deer and bear seasons on the
same day should improve bear hunting opportunities.

‘The bears will be moving, for sure,’ Dente said.

The start of the regular hunting season in the state’s two other
primary bear regions will remain the same: Nov. 24 in the Allegany
range and Oct. 20 in the Adirondacks.

Dente, however, said not all deer hunters will turn their
attention to a bear on Opening Day, even if an opportunity presents
itself.

‘There should be some more interest in bear hunting, but a lot
of guys don’t want to deal with them – especially when they’re out
hunting a buck on opening day,’ he said. ‘And there’s some work
involved if you get a bear.’

Public comments on the DEC’s proposal will be accepted until
Oct. 22 and can be sent via e-mail or regular mail to: Jeremy
Hurst, New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, 625
Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754; jehurst@gw.dec.state.ny.us
(Respondents should write ‘Bear Hunting’ in the subject line.)

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