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January 18, 2014

State mulls extension of black-bear hunting season

State officials are proposing new new rules that would expand the season for hunting black bears and lift restrictions against the hunting of bears less than one year old.

The rules proposed by the Department of Environmental Conservation would establish an early firearms season that would run for 16 days beginning the first Saturday after Labor Day in Central New York, the Catskills and the Southern Tier.

In announcing the proposed changes, the agency noted that black bears “pose significant challenges when the bears become too abundant or are acting boldly in populated areas.”

Among the primary objectives of the rule changes is to “maintain bear populations at levels acceptable to the public” and to “promote and enhance bear hunting as an acceptable management tool,” DEC officials said.

By establishing an early firearms season for black bears in the southern Catskills and in Central New York, the hunting of bears would begin when they pose a threat to agriculture. One result of the earlier season would be an increased take of nuisance bears, officials said.

If the early firearms season reduces the bear population, the agency would then consider going back to the traditional season structure, DEC officials said.

“Wildlife management can present challenges in trying to balance populations, hunting opportunities and environmental impacts,” DEC Commissioner Joe Martens said. “These plans will guide the management of these species for the next 10 years, and we encourage people to review and submit comments on the draft plans.”

Delhi taxidermy shop operator Bob Borow said allowing the early season makes more sense than handing out nuisance permits after bears are implicated in damaging crops.

“A September season is definitely preferable to more nuisance permits,” Borow said. “When the bear is destroyed, there is no trophy value.”

Borow said he also agrees with relaxing restrictions on hunting young bears, noting it is overly harsh to penalize hunters for misjudging a bear’s age.

“It’s too hard to field judge the difference between a male and a female bear in the woods unless there are cubs with it,” he said. “Who’s going to measure the tooth of the bear before you shoot it?”

To view the draft regulations, click here:

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