How often have you had a black bear cross your path in deer season?
I've had few seasons, actually, when I did not see a bear and a few times they nearly knocked me down as they hurried to escape from a deer hunter who had kicked them out. One year, I actually had to step behind a huge oak tree where I was posted on opening day, watching for a buck when a nice blackie came loping along and ran by on the other side of the tree.
At a recent meeting of the Game Commissioners, a lot of changes in seasons and bag limits were proposed. One of those changes which affects this area is that the slate of 2012 bear seasons, which must be given final approval in April before taking effect, includes: a statewide five-day archery bear season (Nov. 12-16); a four-day statewide bear season that will open on Saturday, Nov. 17, and then continue on Monday through Wednesday, Nov. 19-21; and a concurrent bear/deer season in WMUs 3D, 4C, 4D, 4E, 5B and 5C on Nov. 26-Dec. 8.
This is still just a proposal but I'm thinking it will be approved in the April meeting. The black bear population in Pennsylvania has exploded. They need a lot of territory to survive; it's not unusual for a bear to travel 25 miles a day in search of food and the breeding season in July and August. Conversely, the building of housing projects, malls, highways and the like eats into wildlife habitat.
More bears and less habitat means nothing but trouble for residents who don't understand that bears don't just disappear when a new mall goes up where they used to live.
Bears adapt quickly to these intrusions. They are nocturnal anyhow and they prowl around during the night looking for dumpsters, bait piles, bird feeders, garbage cans, beehives or anything they can utilize.
Bears cause conservation officers a bundle of work and trouble nine months out of the year, trapping and transferring nuisance bears from one spot to another. The big problem is that there is hardly a spot in the state that will welcome pesky bears that have been trapped since they already have about all the bears they can handle. I've often told you of the time, 25 years ago now, that I spotted a bear trap behind a Game Commission vehicle parked in a restaurant parking lot.
I did a U-turn and went back to the restaurant and found two game protectors having lunch. Seems they had met on the road as one was transporting his nuisance bear to Tioga County from Pike County and the other one was taking his trapped bear to Pike County from Tioga County.
For some reason, the whole thing struck me as hilarious but it points out the problem.We have an overflow of bears in the state and each year the problem of how to handle them becomes more acute.
Bears adapt well to populated places. They often hibernate right under the porches of occupied residences and the folks inside sometimes are not aware how close they are to a bear. Bears are quite willing to hang around near a house that feeds their dogs outside and maintains bird feeders so they can raid them daily. Not to mention those foolish folks who think it is "cute" to feed bears.
They throw out corn and apples and stale donuts and bears visit them dutifully. But when the landowner goes on vacation or goes back home after a couple weeks at the cabin in the woods, the bear gets ticked off when the goodies are not forthcoming. So he doesn't mind tearing down the wall of a cabin or a shed, searching for what they consider their daily rations.
One thing that makes the problem more difficult is that so many folks are just terrified if they get even a glimpse of a bear. If you don't bait bears to your residence or leave food outside during the night hours, a bear will probably just keep on moving. It is not going to run 100 yards to attack a person.
So all it takes for a game protector to get a hysterical phone call to "come out here and get your bear" is someone seeing a bear crossing a field or along the road anywhere near their home.
So when the bear - or any other wildlife population - reaches such numbers that they need to be thinned out, the seasons are adjusted to take care of it. If taken care of, bear meat is delicious and nutritious. It also makes wonderful bologna.
Many years ago, I was invited to go along with Dr. Gary Alt, who was the head of Pennsylvania's bear program then, on a foray to go to the den of a radio-collared bear while he tranquilized and measured, weighed and gathered other scientific data they needed.
I had taken a bear in Canada a few months before that trip and had much of the meat made into bologna. I served it at the gathering of folks on that bear-den-raiding trip and everyone scoffed it up.
Only after it was gone did I tell anyone it was bear meat. Dr. Alt was amazed that he had not been able to recognize what it was.