Months after conducting the most liberal and prolific black-bear harvest in state history, West Virginia’s wildlife officials want to slow things down a bit.
“The [proposed] changes are pretty major,” said Division of Natural Resources bear biologist Chris Ryan. “We’d like to cut the number of September counties from [last year’s] 15 to [this year’s] four; the September season in those four counties would be six days long instead of nine; and the bag limit would be reduced from two to one.”
Ryan cited a simple reason for the changes.
“The [September] season was designed to allow hunters to harvest additional female bears and bring populations back within our management guidelines. In many of the counties, we believe we accomplished that objective,” he said.
Ryan used the word “believe” because DNR officials must wait until August or September to receive definitive age data on the 322 female bears killed last September.
A Montana-based lab analyzes bear ages fromÂ tooth samples taken from West Virginia’s bear kills.Â West Virginia’s turn in the lab’s rotation comes up in early August. Thus the delay in learning the results, and thus the reason Ryan and his colleagues asked for a scaled-back September season.
“If we did kill enough females to meet our management objectives, we don’t want to schedule another September season and risk an over-harvest,” Ryan said.
Under the DNR proposal, the September season would disappear from Barbour, Grant, Greenbrier, Hardy, Nicholas, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Preston, Randolph, Tucker and Webster counties. It would remain in effect in Boone, Fayette, Kanawha and Raleigh counties.
Ryan said hunters who lament the season’s disappearance in their home counties shouldn’t have a very long wait before it returns.
“With a growth rate like the one in those counties, it won’t be long before populations rise enough to justify another early season,” he said.
Hunters will have a chance to comment on the proposed regulations at a series of DNR sectional meetings in March. Members of the Natural Resources Commission should finalize the 2009 season dates and bag limits by late April or early May.