Growing bear population prompts early hunt in W.Va.

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A black bear pauses in a West Virginia glade.
A black bear pauses in a West Virginia glade. (Photo courtesy W.Va. Dept. of Commerce)

An early black bear gun season, with or without hunting dogs, will run from Aug. 31 through Sept. 15 in all of Logan, McDowell, Mingo, and Wyoming counties in southern West Virginia, according to the W.Va. Division of Natural Resources.

All or parts of 16 counties will open to bear gun hunting Sept.21-27, with or without dogs, including Grant, Greenbrier, Hardy, Nicholas, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Preston, Randolph, Tucker, Webster, and Barbour east of W.Va. 92, Braxton east of I-79, Clay south of the Elk River, Mineral west of New Creek, Monroe east of U.S. 219, and Upshur east of W.Va. 20.

All of Boone, Fayette, Kanawha, and Raleigh counties will be open to bear gun hunting Oct. 5-11, with or without dogs.

“Counties that will be open for early bear hunting are above their management objective and need additional bears to be harvested to achieve their goal,” said Colin Carpenter, black bear project leader for the division.

“The benefit of early seasons is that all bears are available because den entrance is still two or more months away.”

Carpenter advises that oak mast from the red oak group appears to be more abundant in most areas than in 2018, and many of the soft mast species have done well.

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Bears often feed heavily on soft mast early in the season before hard mast becomes available.

“Hunters who focus their efforts near black cherry trees that have fruit, abandoned apple orchards and autumn olive thickets should be able to find bruins,” he said.

Successful hunters are required to submit a premolar tooth from each harvested bear. In addition, hunters who harvest a female black bear are encouraged to save the reproductive tract or all the entrails.

Hunters who submit a complete reproductive tract will be eligible for a $20 gift card. Data obtained from tooth samples and reproductive tracts are used for black bear population monitoring.

Hunters can get a bear tooth envelope at all DNR Wildlife Resources Section district offices and the Elkins Operations Center. Hunters with reproductive tracts or entrails should keep them cool or freeze them and contact their nearest Wildlife Resources district office to arrange pickup.

Hunters are reminded to purchase their bear damage stamp as well as an appropriate hunting license. Details concerning bear hunting seasons can be found on pages 35-40 of the 2019-2020 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Summary.

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