There is no shortage of black bears in
"Typically when we have bad mast years, the bears will go to den earlier," said DNR Biologist Chris Ryan. "It’s a lot more energetically efficient to just go lie down, rather than walking around looking for food and burning up their fat reserves."
It’s the main reason Ryan anticipates the gun season harvest of bears this year will be reduced. He suggests hunters in the
"There are some red and scarlet oaks in the mountains," said Ryan. "They should scout and go find where the oak did hit and those are the places that will likely hold the bears in December."
The real problem with bear hunting in the mountains is the always unpredictable weather. A snowstorm will typically send the bears into the den in high numbers. Ryan says that too is a function of food availability.
"Weather can make them hibernate earlier," he said. "They don’t want to be out there looking for acorns in a foot and a half of snow."
Ryan, who’s followed bear activity in West Virginia over the past five to ten years, doesn’t expect the poor mast conditions will have any negative impact on reproduction just because of the sheer volume of bears in West Virginia. He does however, anticipate a lot of the bears born this winter will never see the outside of their den.
"Some data shows the bears will have the cubs in January, but if she doesn’t have enough milk to make those cubs grow up, they they’ll starve to death," said Ryan. "Mast definitely affects the population, but when the population starts getting so high, you won’t notice it as much."