The New York Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) announced on Thursday that it has adopted a new 10-year black bear management plan that will provide more hunting opportunities for sportsmen. Historically, bears lived in small, isolated populations in the state’s mountainous regions, but successful management practices have led to a bear boom over the past few decades. Now black bears are expanding their territory into more urban areas and coming into conflict with humans. The current population of black bears in the state is estimated at a minimum of 6,000 to 8,000 individuals. More than half of this population resides in the Adirondack region, while about a third are situated in the Catskills. A much smaller number lives in the central-western regions.
“After careful consideration of thousands of public comments, the strategies outlined in the Black Bear Management Plan seek to achieve and maintain bear population levels that are acceptable to the public while providing sustainable opportunity for New York’s big game hunters,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said in a press release. “The plan also addresses public partnerships to reduce human-bear conflicts.”
The new bear management plan has led the DEC to propose rule changes that would establish hunting seasons in the entirety of upstate New York. According to the DEC, that includes:
- allowing bear hunting in Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) 6A, 6G, 6N, and all of 6K during the Northern Zone early bowhunting season, early muzzleloader season, and regular firearms season;
- allowing bear hunting in WMUs 4A, 4B, 4J, 5R, 6P, 6R, 6S, 7A, 7F, 7H, 7J, 8A, 8C, 8F, 8G, 9A, and 9F during the Southern Zone early and late bowhunting seasons, regular firearms season, and late muzzleloading season;
- creating a supplemental firearms bear season for 16 days beginning the 1st Saturday after Labor Day (Sept. 6 – Sept. 21, 2014) in WMUs 3A, 3C, 3H, 3K, 3J, 3M, 3P, 3R, 4P, and 4R;
- begining the Northern Zone bowhunting season for bears on the same day as the early bear season, the 1st Saturday after the 2nd Monday in September (2nd Saturday after Labor Day).
Wildlife officials are currently considering the use of hounds, bait, and trapping as methods of harvest, although none of these have been proposed yet for this season.
Image courtesy New York DEC