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Southern Bear Study


The southern bear study was initiated in 1999 to gather reproductive information from bears in Boone, Fayette, Kanawha, and Raleigh counties and to learn more about bears captured as a result of nuisance behavior.  In 2002, bear seasons in the four study counties were expanded to stabilize a rapidly increasing population.  A three-day season in early November, with dogs, and one week of concurrent hunting without dogs during the first week of deer buck gun season were added.


Biologists intensified efforts to trap and mark bears in the study area to obtain a harvest rate and evaluate the new seasons effects.  Prior to the 2002 hunting season there were 100 tagged bears in the four study counties captured that year and not relocated or were carrying radios installed in previous years.  Forty-six (46) of the 100 were radioed, four males and 42 females.


Eighteen (18) of the 100 tagged bears were harvested; six females and three males were radioed.  Biologists do not believe this years’ kill was high enough to stabilize the population.  Heavy rain during the early November season and poor mast conditions resulting in early denning are reasons for the low 18% harvest rate.


The early November season was the most effective, as 12 of the 18 tagged bears were harvested.  It has been recommended that the early November season be extended from three to six days in 2003 to increase the harvest rate and stabilize the southern bear population.


Research teams have visited 37 dens in the study area where cubs were present.  These dens contained 103 cubs (2.78 cubs per litter).  The most common litter size is three (18 dens), followed by two (seven dens), one (five dens), four (five dens), and five (two dens).  Through December of 2002, 36 radioed females remain.  Twenty-four (24) are due to have young and 12 have yearling cubs from last year.  Den visits are scheduled for early March 2003.


The current research plan is to continue installing radios on females during 2003 until the total reaches 40.  Nuisance bears will again be radioed and subjected to various techniques to discourage nuisance behavior.  Their behavior after release will be monitored and recorded by West Virginia University student Wayne Weaver as part of his Masters Degree research project.

Written by William K. Igo and Thomas L. Dotson

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