Wednesday, February 8th, 2023
Wednesday, February 8th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Kentucky Black Bear Hunt Approved for the 2009 Season

Frankfort, Ky. – In half a century, Kentucky’s white-tailed deer
herd grew from 1,000 animals to a million today. Wild turkeys
increased from about 800 birds to a quarter-million, and we are now
home to 10,000 free-ranging elk, the largest elk population east of
the Rocky Mountains. All are now hunted in Kentucky.

A new big game species came closer to joining that list this
week when legislators approved a pending regulatory amendment that
will create Kentucky’s first black bear season in more than 100

“Sportsmen and sportswomen of Kentucky should be very excited,”
said Steven Dobey, black bear biologist for the Kentucky Department
of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Bears are now well established in
eastern Kentucky and research shows that population growth has
risen steadily over the last 20 years.”

Historically, the range of black bears throughout much of the
eastern U.S. was diminished significantly by habitat loss due to
wholesale logging and unregulated harvest. Today, however, black
bears are more abundant than at any point since the mid-1900s, and
Kentucky is no exception. Once logged forests have naturally
matured and now offer excellent bear habitat throughout much of the
southern Appalachian region of the Commonwealth.

“The 2009 hunt quota is a conservative one of 10 bears, or 5
females, whichever limit is reached first,” said Dobey. “The 2-day
season will occur on the third weekend in December and bears may
only be hunted within a 3-county bear zone of Harlan, Letcher, and
Pike counties. Research clearly shows that Kentucky’s bear
population can sustain a hunt.”

The League of Kentucky Sportsmen and others have pushed for a
Kentucky black bear hunt for several years. League President Rick
Allen recently testified before a legislative committee in support
of creating the state’s first bear season. A decade-long University
of Kentucky black bear population study is supportive as well.

The timing of this hunt is critical, as ongoing tracking of
radiocollared bears shows that most females enter dens during the
first week in December. As such, the hunt will concentrate efforts
on male bears. The bear zone was identified based on a decade of
population monitoring and research that indicates this area of the
Pine, Cumberland and Black Mountain region has the highest bear

The 6,000-acre Hensley-Pine Mountain Wildlife Management Area in
Letcher County will be closed to all bear hunting and serve as a
sanctuary for denning females. On an additional 12,421 acres
surrounding this wildlife management area, bear hunting will be
limited to landowners, their spouses and dependent children hunting
on their own property.

Collectively, the bear sanctuary will stretch from the town of
Cumberland to the northern end of the wildlife management area,
bounded by KY 160 and U.S. 119 along either side of Pine

“Since 2006, 77 percent of all radiocollared female bears have
denned on Pine Mountain,” Dobey continued. “Minimizing hunting
pressure in this area will protect critical denning habitat for
females and greatly assist in our ongoing management efforts.”

The purchase of a $30 black bear permit will be available only
to Kentucky residents. All bears harvested must be Telechecked and
taken to a department-operated check station. All bear hunters will
be required to call an automated telephone number by 9 p.m. after
the first day of the hunt to learn whether the quota has been
reached. If the quota is met on day one, then the season will be
closed. Baiting for bears and the use of hounds will be

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