Bear Hunting Season Changes
ELMIRA HEIGHTS (WENY) -- Changes are in effect for bear hunting season just days before recent sightings in Elmira Heights.
The number of black bears in New York State is increasing quickly, according to the Department of Environmental Conservation, and now it's changing hunting regulations to limit population growth.
The DEC says it's taken a conservative approach to bear management over the past 30 years. The population grew, as intended, and has spread throughout the state.
"I lived in this area all my life, and I hunt in the woods and all, but I haven't seen that many," said Ken Andrus, Shooting and Preserve Manager of the Chemung County Rod and Gun Club.
Two bears were spotted by neighbors in Elmira Heights by Grand Central Creamery on Wednesday morning.
"I saw one behind our Horseheads Fire Station and the fellas have, but they don't bother anybody. They just come up out of the swamp and go back in," said Andrus.
According to the Department of Conservation, the Finger Lakes don't typically see many black bears.
"In the areas south of the Finger Lakes, the bear population has been growing," said DEC Wildlife Biologist, Jeremy Hurst. "As it grows, they produce more cubs. Those cubs grow, disperse from their area and move into their own homes to find their own space."
They've found some homes here in the Finger Lakes.
To help prevent human-bear conflicts, the DEC has changed its Black Bear Management Plan:
- Establish bear hunting seasons in all of upstate New York (all counties north of New York City)
- Create a special early firearms season (Sept. 6 – Sept. 21) for bears in specific Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) in the Catskills and western Hudson Valley region
- Provide a uniform start date (Sept. 13) for bowhunting and early firearms bear season in the Northern Zone
The plan is was approved after the DEC received hundreds of public comments on the draft plan last Winter.
"The strategy that we're implementing, now with opening up hunting in larger areas, is to keep the population from expanding into those areas and allow the bear population to really stay in good numbers in areas where it's more suitable," said Hurst.
The final Bear Management Plan also includes scientific monitoring of populations and potentially expanding areas open to bear hunting.