Kentucky had a record bear season in 2015, but not all parties think that's a good thing. Differing opinions lead to varying thoughts on law changes for upcoming seasons.
For the sixth consecutive year, Kentucky had a record bear season in 2015 by a larger margin than ever. There were a total of 46 black bears harvested in Kentucky in 2015, more than double the number of 21 killed in 2014, and 11 more than it's 2015 quota of 35.
While some people take the record bear season as a good sign that numbers are on the rise, others are skeptical and are questioning both the seasons and the methods Kentucky are using.
One of the key challengers to the hunting season is The Humane Society of the United States, who points out that Kentucky is increasing hunting season quotas without sufficient research to prove the population is growing.
Steve Beam, the wildlife division director for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife resources said that the 35-bear quota was "extremely conservative" and his offices believes the Kentucky black bear population to be around 700. The Humane Society on the other hand has claimed that the state is home to a number closer to 350 bears.
While there have been studies to determine the number of black bears, like one conducted by the University of Kentucky, they are limited to certain areas and may not be indicative of the state as a whole. Beam says that his office only uses that research as a baseline and also bases estimates on other factors, such as bear sightings which have increased from 44 in 2004 to 454 in 2014 and those sightings have also spread throughout the state, going from just 9 counties in 2004 to 41 in 2014.
Kentucky did close two of its four types of bear hunting (archery and firearms) early in 2015 due to the quota being met or exceeded. However, the state doesn't anticipate any major changes coming in future seasons, saying that harvest numbers are one of the best indicators of the health of a population.
Opponents on the other hand are still pushing for more restrictions and more scientific research to ensure that the black bear does not become extinct in Kentucky a second time. The Humane Society is hoping that Kentucky will at least change its rule on reporting a kill from the current 24 hour time limit to a 12 hour limit to avoid overruns.
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