Massachusetts hunters could see expanded black bear hunting opportunities next season, due to the animals' healthy populations.
The Massachusetts Fisheries and Wildlife Board recently voted 6-0 in a meeting, to lift a restriction and allow black bear hunting west of Interstate 495. This expansion of black bear hunting is due to the growing populations of the animals across the entire Bay State.
The Board also voted to allow hunters to go black bear hunting during the shotgun deer season. Currently, the black bear hunting season is split between 17 days in September and another 18 during October.
Chairman George Darey told reporters, "We know we have to control the bear population, and this really is about the only tool we have left."
Bear populations have shown substantial growth since the 1800s, and according to the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife there are about 4,000 currently living in Massachusetts.
Fish and Game Commissioner George Peterson said;
The population has gotten so big that conflicts are starting to arise. You've got these pictures of bears in Worcester up in a tree, and they have to possibly euthanize them. Nobody wants to see that done, so you want to limit the amount of conflicts, and the only way that you can do that is through the regulatory structure, and using hunting and other methods to be able to sustain the population.
State officials say the change will give hunters more access to hunting grounds by opening up Framingham, Sudbury, Wayland and Natick, as well as expanding the existing hunting territory in Hopkinton, Milford, Southborough and Marlborough.
The proposed changes will remain on hold in accordance with a 90-day freeze on regulatory alterations put in place by the current governor. Officials hope the regulations will be reviewed by Administration and Finance Secretary Kristen Lepore by March 31.