Cumberland Times-News

August 31, 2013

New bear hunt in W.Va. explained

Michael A. Sawyers
Cumberland Times-News

— There are 19 counties in West Virginia where the Division of Natural Resources wants more bears harvested.

A permit system has been devised that will allow a limited number of hunters to use firearms to kill bears in those counties during the annual buck season, but only on private lands. This year that season runs Nov. 25 through Dec. 7.

Included are Grant, Hardy, Mineral Pendleton and Tucker counties.

As of the Aug. 19 deadline, the agency received about 3,100 applications for the permits.

“I’m very happy with that number of applications,” said Chris Ryan, the Wildlife Resources Section’s director of game management services.

Ryan said it will be a couple weeks before he knows how many applications were received for each county.

In addition, it won’t be known how many permits will be issued until the annual mast survey is analyzed in late September.

Here is what Ryan does know.

“We have selected two permit numbers for each county,” he said. “A higher number if there is a bad mast year and a lower number if there is a good mast year.”

Ryan explained that a bad mast year makes bears go to dens sooner and less available to hunters. By putting more hunters in the woods in a bad mast year, the opportunity for a desired harvest level increases.

“We have more than 40 years of mast survey numbers,” Ryan said. “If this year’s survey shows a county in the lower (25 percent) of those numbers, we will call it a failure or a bad mast year. Anything above that will be a good mast year.”

If 2013 is a good mast year, Mineral County will be assigned 100 permits. A bad mast year will generate 150 permits.

Other good/bad permit ranges are:

• Grant, 300-450.

• Hardy, 500-750.

• Pendleton, 500-750.

• Tucker, 200-300.

DNR has survey data showing that bear hunters using firearms, but not using dogs, have a success rate of 4 percent.

“We were super conservative when we figured the permit numbers,” Ryan said. “We estimated the harvest based upon 10 percent success.”

Using Mineral County as an example, Ryan explained how the harvest would be expected to play out at the 100-permit level with 10 percent hunter success rate.

Ryan pointed out, also, that landowners may hunt without permits.

“That would be 10 bears harvested by permit holders and we anticipate another three bears taken by landowners.”

Based upon past harvest gender ratios, the DNR would expect those 13 bears to include six females, three or four of which would be adult females.

“So we are saying that the system would account for the harvest of only three or four adult female bears in all of Mineral County,” he said, concerned that some may look at the permit numbers and envision a wiping out of a bear population.

If more applications have been received than the number of permits that are available, drawings for those counties will be conducted.

“Hunters should know the first or second week of October whether or not they received a permit,” Ryan said.

A full list of counties in the permit hunt is available online at www.wvdnr.gov or in the new hunting regulation booklet.

The archery season for bear hunting begins Sept. 28 statewide.

Contact Outdoor Editor Mike Sawyers at msawyers@times-news.com.