August 22, 2019

A Reasonable Understanding of Black Bear Management

From the Boston Globe:

“Cross and his employer, Maine’s Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, argue that, without these extra aids in hunting, this overpopulation would worsen. Hunters already struggle to find the secretive creatures in Maine’s thick forests, Cross explains. Only three in 10 hunters actually shoot a bear.

“Fairness comes down to challenge,” he adds. “I would debate with anyone that, with 70 percent of hunters being unsuccessful, that is challenge enough.”” <<<Read More>>>

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Maine’s Bear Biologists Discuss Increasing Bear Populations And Management Strategies At Conference

Press Release from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife:

FRONT ROYAL, Virginia – Burgeoning black bear populations throughout the northeast were among the major topics discussed at the annual Northeast Black Bear Technical Committee meeting in Virginia. Maine bear biologists Randy Cross and Jennifer Vashon joined bear biologists from 16 states and six Canadian provinces for the annual conference, which was held August 27 and 28 in Front Royal, Virginia.

“Nearly all the northeast states are increasing hunting opportunities to try and control black bear numbers,” said Vashon. “New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, New York, Pennsylvania and West Virginia all recently increased the length of their black bear hunting seasons. Connecticut is considering enacting a bear hunt, and Maryland has been increasing the number of bear permits available.”

The two-day meeting focused on issues surrounding bear managers in the northeast. Among the topics discussed over the two days included reports from subcommittees/

*Bear population management strategies, including population estimates, modeling techniques and harvest strategies.
*Effectiveness of focused hunting in in urban and suburban areas to reduce conflicts between bears and people.
*Developing a standard message for how to react in a bear-human encounter.
*Standardized protocols for responding to bear attacks and the recent bear attack training received by the Southeast Black Bear Technical Committee.
*Summarizing data on care and rehabilitation of orphaned cubs.
*Ongoing predator prey/prey research about black bear and deer.

“The first day involves status reports from each state and province, where bear managers highlight what is happening in their state, and then we hear from our working groups that are tasked with researching certain topics,” said Cross.

Vashon noted that one of the more interesting topics for the working groups was the discussion concerning aversive conditioning of nuisance black bears, where bears are hazed or harassed in hopes that nuisance bear behavior won’t be repeated.

“What the group found was that there was no silver bullet or one tool that was effective, and that aversive conditioning is an effective short-term solution, especially when addressing an immediate public safety issue or when property damage is severe,” said Vashon. That was the result of studies in three different states where biologists radio-collared nuisance bears and subjected them to aversive conditioning after a nuisance bear complaint.

“Dealing with increasing nuisance conflicts is a priority for most eastern states,” said Vashon. “The committee is currently evaluating if increasing hunting opportunity around urban areas can alleviate conflicts. Initial findings indicate that increased hunting around urban areas is effective at removing bears that cause problems in backyards.”

One part that is particularly helpful to bear managers is feedback from the committee.

“These people know their subject and can give you feedback. It helps improve your program based upon the shared knowledge within the committee,” said Vashon.

The Northeast Black Bear Technical Committee first met in Maine in 2002 and has met every year since then. Vashon, Maine’s lead bear biologist, was the chair of the committee from 2007-2010. As chair, Vashon was instrumental in bringing the Eastern Black Bear Workshop to Maine in 2013.

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Did You Know Maine Bears Went to School?

Actually, this is not true but when you read an article in the CBC News, online, titled, “Education, monitoring, key to getting rid of black bears, says biologist”, and read the opening paragraph, readers could take what it written at face value.

A wildlife biologist in Maine says public education and a careful monitoring program helped communities in his area get rid of a black bear problem similar to the one facing the Glovertown area.

I’m curious as to whether the bears are segregated from the rest of the public education participants and if so, is this legal?……and racial considering the bears are black?

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Maine Bear Biologist: Bears Kill As Many Deer Fawns as Coyotes; Not Opposed to Spring Hunt

V. Paul Reynolds interviewed Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife (MIDFW) biologist Randy Cross on his radio program on the Voice of Maine radio which airs Sunday nights at 7 p.m. (101.3 and 103.9 FM). Reynolds shares some of that interview in his weekly column.

There are two things in that interview that I would like to discuss just a bit. The first is Cross’ comment about whether black bears kill as many deer fawns as coyotes.

We are really not sure how much bear predation there is on deer. A Pennsylvania study suggested that there is a lot, but that state is not a valid comparison to Maine for a number of reasons. A New Brunswick study suggests that bear kill quite a few fawns, and it’s hard to deny that bears kill young deer. They are good at finding the most calories for the least effort. I’d say it is possible that bears in Maine take as many fawns as coyotes.

Cross seems willing to admit that it is “possible” that bears take as many fawns as coyotes. Perhaps they would actually know this if they used their management dollars for this purpose. This all may sound good to those of us hunters screaming for something serious to be done about predator protection that is resulting in the destruction of the deer herd in many places. However, it is difficult to understand the actual meaning of this comment as MDIFW has been reluctant to admit that coyotes have any substantial effect on the deer herd. If biologist Cross maintains the common notion, as MDIFW as a whole, that coyotes don’t really present a problem for the deer herd then one can just as easily assume his thoughts are that bears or any other predator doesn’t either.

The second issue concerns a spring bear hunting season.

I would not oppose a spring bear hunt. For a bear manager, a spring hunt can be a precise and powerful tool. Success rates are high ( in a spring hunt) and very predictable, unlike the fall bear harvest.

Anyone who is somebody knows there are way too many bears in Maine. Hunters have been asking nicely for a spring bear hunt for some time and seemingly falling on deaf ears. The numbers are there, Cross doesn’t oppose a hunt, therefore we should be able to conclude that it would be justified scientifically, or wouldn’t he have said so? Then the only stumbling block would be sociopolitical reasons. We know a certain amount of fear of being sued exists and the power that Maine guides have over MDIFW when it comes to seasons and bag limits is overwhelming.

It is time for Commissioner Woodcock to now take the lead and get Maine a spring bear hunt. It is scientifically necessary, particularly at a time when these large predators are preventing the rebuilding of a seriously diminished deer herd.

And while he’s at it, let’s increase the number of moose permits and get those numbers down to a better manageable number…..at least until the deer herd has recovered.

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