West Virginia Considering Expanding Bear Hunting Season

by Jon D. B.

An unusually high number of nuisance complaints in West Virginia counties has the DNR proposing big changes to black bear hunting in the state.

Whether for sport or conservation, bear hunters may need to free up some extra time in fall 2021. The WV Division of Natural Resources is proposing a change to the state’s bear hunting. Within, hunters would see 10 extra days of open season for the state’s black bears.

The DNR’s Sunday quarterly meeting of the State Natural Resources Commission unveiled the proposal. Under which, hunters in Boone, Fayette, Raleigh, and Kanawha counties specifically would benefit from the extended bear season. If passed, the season would then be split into two parts. These are August 28 to September 6 – and October 30 to November 5.

This would be a stark change from West Virginias bear hunting season in 2020. The previous season ran from just October 2 to Oct. 8.

WV’s DNR bear project leader, Colin Carpenter, cites the “high number of bear nuisance complaints in those counties” as evidence for the change. To Carpenter, this drastic increase in bear-human interaction “indicates that the population needs to be thinned.”

“Last year, 47% of the state’s nuisance complaints came from those counties,” Carpenter spells out. Drastic numbers, indeed.

Black Blear ‘Overpopulation Problem’ Leads to Hunting Extension Proposal

According to the local Gazette-Mail, “a similar overpopulation problem existed in Logan, Mingo, McDowell and Wyoming counties.”

Moreover, this overpopulation has been prevalent for the past two years, and only increasing. “By opening the season in late August and providing extra days of hunting, wildlife officials were able to reduce the bear population there,” the trade adds.

These past successes serve as the foundation for Sunday’s proposals. Other DNR recommendations involve lengthening or adding counties to existing seasons, as to avoid drastic change upfront.

In addition, “the bear firearm season without dogs held concurrently with the state’s October antlerless-deer season saw the largest increase,” GM reports. “Last year, 29 counties were open for the three-day hunt. This year, 51 counties will be open.”

“Basically, we just added the rest of the counties in which firearm hunting for deer is allowed,” Carpenter furthers. “It sounds significant, but last year during that season, hunters killed just 38 bears in the 29 counties that were open.”

‘Bear Nuisance’ in Multiple Counties Likely To Fuel Approval

West Virginia counties of Charleston, Morgantown, Beckley, and other municipalities within highly bear populated areas have seen a stark rise in bear nuisance complaints. As a result, DNR wildlife chief Paul Johansen says these proposal will give both town and city governments “the ability to allow bow and crossbow hunting for bears within their corporate limits.”

Officials are also asking the commission to give homeowners associations, alongside cities, the ability to instate urban bear-hunting seasons.

“Bears are particularly problematic in cities because they become [familiar with] humans and the sources of food found near people’s houses and businesses,” Johansen continues.

Local urban seasons for white-tailed deer have helped reduce their troublesomely-high populations throughout the state. Johansen says urban bear hunting seasons should do the same.

West Virginia citizens will be able to comment on these proposals during the oncoming weeks. Anyone wishing to do so should before May 2, when the commission will meet once more. That same month is when the commission should act on the hunting proposals.