Faced with a fast-growing black-bear population, unprecedented numbers of bear-nuisance complaints and record payouts for bear damage claims, West Virginia wildlife officials want to change the way people hunt the animals.
Division of Natural Resources officials know that the best way to reduce the bear population is to kill female bears before they go into hibernation and give birth. So, in Sunday’s Natural Resources Commission meeting, DNR bearÂ biologist Chris Ryan proposed a September hunting season for counties where bruin populations are starting to cause problems.
If history is any indication, the strategy should work. Prior to 1977, bear seasons opened in November. Hunters had no trouble killing females; in fact, the earlier seasons shrank the statewide bear population to fewer than 500 animals.
In 1977, wildlife officials pushed the bear season back into December. Hunters killed lots of male bears, but most females were safely in their winter dens by then. The bear population rose steadily, and today numbers more than 12,000.
The September season is designed to reverse the bear population trend. BiologistsÂ placed the season in September instead of November to avoid conflicts with bowhunters duringÂ the peak of the deer rutting season.
If approved by the Natural Resources Commission, theÂ September season would be held this fall in Boone, Barbour, Fayette, Grant, Greenbrier, Hardy, Kanawha, Nicholas, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Preston, Raleigh, Randolph, Tucker and Webster counties.Â