Black bear regulations increase hunting opportunities

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — West Virginia hunters will continue to have expanded opportunities to kill a black bear under the regulations proposed for 2014. The Division of Natural Resources Wildlife Section proposal to the state’s Natural Resources Commission for this fall includes no major changes from the 2013 regulations.

“There really weren’t that many changes,” said Colin Carpenter, leader of the state’s bear management project. “People will have to look at the proposals for the individual counties where they hunt because we have moved a few counties around.”

The biggest shift for 2014 involves those counties where hunters will be able to hunt bears during the buck gun season. Previously the proposal limited the bear hunting to private land, but in 2014 it’s proposed to be on private and public land. The counties affected by the change are Barbour, Braxton, Clay, Grant, Greenbrier, Hardy, Lewis, Mercer, Monroe, Pendleton, Pocahontas, Randolph, Summers, Taylor, Tucker, Upshur, and Webster Counties. Hunters in the county would have to obtain a special permit from the state to kill a bear in those counties during the buck season.

“If you hunt the National Forest in Pocahontas County, you’d have the opportunity to kill a bear while you’re deer hunting,” said Carpenter.

Nicholas County would join Preston County in more loose restrictions for the coinciding hunt in buck season.  Hunters could kill a bear without a special permit during the buck season in those counties. There would be no dog hunting during the buck season.

The other proposals call for three different segments of the hunting season in Boone, Fayette, Kanawha, and Raleigh Counties.  A six-day hunt with or without dogs from Oct. 4-Oct 10, the two weeks of buck season, and again with or without dogs from December 8-December 31.  The same dates apply to Logan, McDowell, Mingo, and Wyoming County with the exception of the two week buck season since those counties do not have a gun season for deer.

“We’ve added a Saturday to the early southern season,” said Carpenter. “It would open on Saturday and run through the next Friday.”

Carpenter said unlike other game species in the state like deer and turkey, black bears are managed to not only what hunters want but also to what the general public wants.

“They are the folks who have to live with bears year round,” he said. “With bears we’re not shooting for biological carrying capacity, we’re looking for sociological carrying capacity and what people can stand in the places they live.”

Carpenter said the most recent surveys about black bears revealed counties of the eastern mountains wanted fewer bears.  Surveyors found most in those counties wanted the black bear numbers reduced and therefore the season would be liberalized even further for 2014.

The final decision lies with the Natural Resources Commission following the March Sectional Meetings.


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