With bear populations growing across the country and bear-human encounters on the rise, some are advocating for more bear hunting.
With human-bear encounters increasing across the country, some are suggesting that more bear hunting might be the answer to increasing bear populations.
There’s no doubt that the human population has increased dramatically in the last several decades, but so too does it appear that the bear population has increased, and rather markedly in some areas.
The number of fatal bear attacks has grown significantly since 1960, partly because of human encroachment into places that were previously occupied by bears and partly because of an increase in bear numbers, particularly in recent years.
Last year the Florida bear season was ended after only two days of hunting, with nearly 300 bears killed. This year, because of anti-hunting outcry, officials have stayed the Florida bear season.
In the 1970s the black bear population numbered as few as 300 to 500. But, according to the Florida Wildlife Commission their population has grown to an estimated 4,350.
Several National Parks have had to issue extra warnings and even close off areas due to increased bear activity. The Great Smoky Mountains, Shenandoah and Glacier National Parks are just a few examples of areas or trails in National Parks closing due to increased human-bear encounters.
Approximately 800,000 black bears—that’s not counting grizzlies, polar or brown bears—now occupy North America.
“American black bears are doing well all over,” says Maryland DNR Biologist Harry Striker.
Dry summers exacerbate the problem of human-bear encounters. The dry weather prompts bears to wander further and into previously ignored places—such as bird feeders and trash areas—in search of food.
In Maine, more than 600 complaints were filed for bear encounters this year. Authorities in Maine, Vermont and New Hampshire are encouraging more hunter participation in their annual bear hunts to help stabilize the populations.
Hunting has long been known by hunters and wildlife officials to be an effective management tool for helping to control exploding game populations. It is only the anti-hunters, largely through their ignorance, who balk at this efficacious wildlife conservation tool.
Unfortunately, and to the detriment of wildlife, anti-hunters have a loud voice and far too often their protestations hold sway in wildlife management policy decisions.
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