On Saturday, December 19th Kentucky hunters will have an historic opportunity. The Bluegrass State will host its first bear hunt in over a century.
The hunt is limited to Kentucky residents only. The season will be open in Pike, Harlan and Letcher counties on the 19th and possibly the 20th. The hunt will end after 10 bears or five females are harvested. Hunters need to call 1800-858-1549 by 9 p.m. on the 19th. to see if the season will be open the following day.
Successful hunters must take their bear to one of the check-in stations set up in each of the open counties. Locations are listed at the department’s webpage online at fw.ky.gov, or hunters may call 1-800-858-1549 during regular weekday business hours prior to the hunt for check-in station locations. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife biologists will weigh the bears, take body measurements and biological samples for research, and attach a permanent tag to each harvested animal. Hunters must also telecheck their bear before leaving the check station.
Hunters may not take female bears with cubs or bears weighing less than 75 pounds. A 75-pound bear is about the same size as an adult Labrador retriever. Baiting is prohibited, including garbage used as bait. For example, hunters may not shoot a bear feeding at a garbage can or dumpster.
“The population has shown phenomenal growth from only a decade ago,” said Steven Dobey, bear program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “We’ve been monitoring this population and have been involved in research with the University of Kentucky for almost 10 years. Based on our research efforts, it’s clear that Kentucky’s bear population can support a sustainable harvest.”
Portions of 10 public hunting areas are open for bear hunting, though hunters should consult maps to ensure they hunt only within Harlan, Letcher and Pike counties. Excluding Hensley-Pine Mountain WMA, there are 29,651 acres of public land available to hunters within the three-county bear zone. Hunters must have landowner permission to hunt or retrieve downed bears from private land.
The Hensley-Pine Mountain Wildlife Management Area (WMA) is closed to bear hunting, and a 12,500-acre area surrounding the WMA is open only to landowners, their spouses and dependent children hunting on their own property. Those boundaries are clearly delineated in the 2009-10 Kentucky Hunting and Trapping Guide, available wherever hunting licenses are sold and online at fw.ky.gov.
“This season is particularly exciting because black bears are the first species to repopulate naturally in Kentucky,” said Rick Allen, president of the League of Kentucky Sportsmen. “I’m glad to see this season become a reality for Kentucky’s sportsmen and sportswomen.”
For more information you can contact the KDFWR at 1-800-858-1549 or visit their web site at www.fw.ky.gov.