A banner year for N.Y. bear hunters

Albany – New York’s bear hunters had a record or near-record
season in two of the three bear-hunting regions of the state,
according to preliminary harvest numbers from DEC.

While early figures showed a record take in the Allegany region,
primarily in western New York, the Catskill region was poised to be
right around the 2005 record harvest of 494 bruins.

“I think it’s going to be close,” DEC Region 3 wildlife
biologist Matt Merchant said of the Catskill tally. “Our reported
take right now is 493. There’s definitely a small percentage that
don’t get reported, and that will be factored into our calculated
harvest. Plus, we have a few illegal kills that will be taken off
the harvest number.”

In the Allegany region, the reported harvest of an even 200
bears is already 67 percent above the record 2007 kill of 120.

DEC_Region 9 wildlife biologist Tim Spierto said the 2008 kill
was even higher than he had expected.

“We had a spotty mast crop, but the bears were active well into
the season – even though there was plenty of snow in some areas,”
he said. “Our calculated harvest might be higher than the reported
harvest, but not much higher.”

The Allegany region’s bear harvest was boosted somewhat by the
opening of 13 additional Wildlife Management Units to bear hunting
this past season. Still, the overall kill would have been a record
without that move; 18 bruins were taken in those 13 western and
central New York units opened for the first time to bear
hunting.

In the Adirondacks – at one time a sure bet to have the highest
harvest statistics of the three regions – the 2008 harvest was at a
reported 455. That’s well below the calculated 2007 take of 544
bruins, but DEC_Region 5 wildlife biologist Ed Reed says the
region’s calculated take for 2008 may still approach 600 bears.

The Adirondack region typically doesn’t have as high a reporting
rate as the Catskill and Allegany regions, officials said, so the
calculated take is often significantly higher.

“Overall, it was an above-average season,” Reed said.

In the Catskill and Allegany regions, hunters appeared to have
taken advantage of snow cover that offered good tracking conditions
throughout much of the season. There was also snow in the
Adirondacks, where most of the bear kills are made by deer hunters
who happen to encounter a bruin while pursuing whitetails.

Warm weather during the early bear season in the Adirondacks led
to a slightly lower harvest, at a reported 66 bears.

DEC’s reported harvest numbers showed 129 archery kills in the
Catskill region, 88 in the Allegany region and 10 in the
Adirondacks.

Merchant said more and more hunters in the Catskills are
targeting bears specifically during the archery season.

The weeklong mid-October muzzleloader season in the Adirondacks
accounted for a reported 76 bears, while 9 muzzleloader kills came
in the Allegany region and 7 in the Catskills.

The regular-season bear harvest reports showed 357 bears taken
in the Catskills, 303 in the Adirondacks and 103 in the Allegany
region.

Merchant said a good mast crop – particularly black cherry and
beech nuts – kept bears out feeding and made them more available to
hunters.

Ulster County, in particular, was a strong bear producer, with
139 reported kills. That ranked the county ahead of Sullivan,
traditionally the top bear-hunting area in the Catskills, which had
93 reported kills.

Merchant said the mast crop led many bruins to migrate from
Sullivan County into parts of Ulster County.

“We had one collared male bear that traveled 14 miles, from
Sullivan into Ulster County, to feed in a stand of black
cherry,”_Merchant said. “We just monitored him, and he wasn’t
harvested.”

Spierto said his region picked up an additional 19 road-killed
bruins this past year, and 21 the year before. An area along Route
17 – now Interstate 86 – in Allegany County was a prime area for
bear encounters, he said.

“I think the bears will continue to expand their range in the
Allegany region, but there will be yearly fluctuations in harvest
numbers,”_Spierto said.

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