The fall 2013 bear season recently came to an end and was once again very successful.
A total of 2,682 black bears were taken by hunter’s statewide – an almost identical number to last year’s and second highest harvest on record.
Pocahontas County was down about 28 percent from 2012 with a total of 140 bears taken. The archery season and September gun season results were similar to 2012, but the December gun kill was down by 42 percent. Only 74 bears were killed by gun hunters compared to 127 the year before. Likewise, Greenbrier and Webster counties were also down a little from the previous year.
There is little doubt that lack of mast put bears to bed early last fall. If there is nothing in the woods to eat, they will just hibernate earlier. No mast and extreme cold weather put a lot of bears to sleep. Decreased availability equals lower results.
Mast was scattered in some areas. While beech, hickory and soft mast was fair, the oak mast was pretty slim to non-existent. Some pockets of acorns were found at high elevations, but not enough to support all the critters that enjoy feeding on them.
Archers had a good year and were better able to isolate on the mast early on. Consequently, 851 bears were taken by bow hunters. This was the second best season total, only bested by 2009 when 1,035 were harvested.
Randolph County led the state with a total of 297 bears harvested, and that was a significant increase over the 220 taken in 2012. Pendleton County also had an increased take up to 220, up from 195 the previous year.
The Department of Natural Resources has continued to liberalize and add days and areas to the bear season in order to control the population. They had hoped for a harvest of 3,000 but came up just a little short this year.
DNR District VI, located in the western central part of the state and including Wood, Roane, Doddridge and Ritchie counties among others came up with the lowest bear totals. Only six were taken across the entire district. This would not be unusual except that District VI had the highest buck harvest of any district. While they were not allowed to bear hunt with dogs, in the future look for more bears to start turning up in that area.
There were only 14 counties in the state that did not register a bear kill.
On January 9, a half dozen killdeers were seen behind the Clinic and VFD in Green Bank. They worked the low ground where the soft, damp ground should be, looking for insects and invertebrates. This however, was one day after the extreme 10 below temperatures and all they found was a solid sheet of bullet proof ice.
It was fun to see these road-runner- like birds scurrying around. They could be a harbinger of spring or just badly confused travelers looking for a way out of here.
Dave is a telescope operator at the NRAO and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.