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Bear Management Stalled in New Jersey.

Governor Christie Whitman (a hunter herself) asked the New Jersey Fish and Game Council to suspend the proposed black bear season for a year. Why? The WLFA reports that animal-rights groups flooded legislators with complaints about the bear season, which the Council had approved in June. Then animal-rights groups submitted legislation that passed the senate. In the house, legislators bowed to pressure and asked the governor to cancel the season. Mixed in the bill was language that would "dilute the authority of the Fish and Game Council to set wildlife policy," and that was a problem.

In suspending the season the governor recognized a definite problem with a high bear population and growing bear/human conflicts. She asked for more money to educate the public about bear problems and for control of problem animals. She also proposed to allow first-offense problem bears to be killed when safety and property were threatened. Hopefully, after a year of this program, a management system that logically involves bear hunting will be implemented. Seems as though the hunters of New Jersey need to be more vocal on this issue so that legislators realize that good bear management involves hunting.

The Bucks Start Here

Prior to 1998 a Tennessee hunter could take as many as 11 bucks. After lowering that to 2 in 1998 and up to 3 in 1999, the results have been positive. In 1997, 30 percent of bucks harvested were 2 years old or older. In 1998 that number climbed to 38 percent, and the trend continued in 1999 with 45 percent. Watch for other states to decrease the bag limit on bucks to increase the percentage of quality bucks.

Disease Outbreaks Are Normal

Every year, while scouting or hunting, hunters from various parts of whitetail country find dead deer. Many of these deer have died from hemorrhagic disease (HD). In the Fall 2000 issue of Quality Whitetails, Dr. Al Woolf of Southern Illinois University discusses this disease. HD is a general term describing viral diseases (carried by insects) that end up in deer and other ruminants. The two common forms of HD are epizootic HD, and bluetongue virus. Both are very similar. The insect that carries these diseases is a tiny midge. In some places a small amount of HD always exists, and some deer die each year. In other situations outbreaks occur, and relatively large numbers of deer die. These outbreaks occur when conditions for the disease are just right -- warm summer weather produces lots of midges, and deer numbers are high, leading to high infection rates. HD outbreaks occur somewhere in the country every year, but overall, they are not common. In 1999, 12 states reported moderate mortality.

About 4 years ago eastern Montana experienced an HD outbreak. On a ranch that I hunted we found several dead deer, one a super buck. Another ranch 9 miles down the road had no dead deer. And, today, deer numbers on the ranch where I hunted are fine. Bottom line is, HD is a normal part of the system. No one can control it, and deer populations in areas that suffer outbreaks recover within a short time.

Predators Take Their Toll

A lot of critters eat other critters. Animal-rights folks don't want to hear this, but, nevertheless, it is true. Sometimes predation leads to controversy. Research done by the U. S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the Delta Waterfowl Foundation shows that reducing predators increases waterfowl populations significantly. On one large area where predators were trapped, duck nesting success was 67 percent, while on a nearby control area, with no trapping, nesting success was only 7 percent. However, Ducks Unlimited takes a negative view of predator control, preferring to let nature take her course. Rather than spending money on predator control, DU spends it on habitat restoration. Both groups seem to have valid points.

Predation apparently influences other species as well. My good friend, Dr. George Hurst, a retired wildlife professor from Mississippi State University, estimates that Mississippi turkey numbers dropped from about 400,000 birds in 1987 to 250,000 in 1997. Hurst cited several factors for the decline, but he considered raccoon predation on turkey nests as a major culprit.

Predators such as bobcats seem to be showing significant gains. Pennsylvania and Wisconsin are considering a bobcat season, and more and more bobcats are being seen in Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, Kansas, Missouri, Arkansas, and Oklahoma. Maybe the recent, relatively mild winters have provided a broadened food base for the cats? No one knows for sure why numbers are rising, but research efforts are underway.

Predator management is always controversial and always difficult. No matter what the situation, some folks will always think there are too many predators while others will think there are too few.

Bears Come Out Of The Woodwork

Apparently the hot, dry summer put a major chink into the black bears' berry and nut diet in Colorado, forcing bears to scrounge in areas where humans live. Here are some of the Colorado newspaper headlines for September showing that bears are a growing problem there. "'Frazzled' wildlife officials may feel like hibernating, too." "Grand Junction: Bear City, USA." "Bears wreak havoc across Western Slope." "Killings of problem bears in state could top 100 for year." And how about this story from the August 25 issue of the Aspen paper? "Bear Ransacks Apartment." Seems a bear entered an apartment and destroyed the kitchen, while three residents and a bassett hound slept in adjacent bedrooms. Now there's a watch dog for you. Oh, yes, the September 15 Glenwood Post reported that a 560-pound bear was hit by a car on Interstate 70 (that is one huge bear), and that same day two Missouri bowhunters in the Grand Mesa area of Colorado were attacked and bitten by a black bear. Would a spring bow season reduce these prob lems? We'll probably never find out.
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Author:Samuel, Dr. Dave
Publication:Bowhunter
Date:Apr 1, 2001
Words:984
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