Kentucky’s Fish and Wildlife Department has proposed expanding the area bears can be hunted by about 20 percent, and they’ve also proposed raising the quota for bears that can be killed each year from 25 to 35 and lengthening the times of year during which bears can be hunted or chased by dogs.
But the regulation proposal is opposed by the U.S. Humane Society, which says the state’s bear population is still too small for expansion.
There are between 500 and 700 bears across 41 counties in 2013 according to Kentucky Fish and Wildlife.
But the Humane Society contests those numbers.
Bears were nearly wiped out of Kentucky by the beginning of the 20th Century but began to make a comeback in the early 1990s, according to the state. There were bears in just 11 Kentucky counties in 2005, but at the time the state didn’t have numbers for how many bears there were.
Dobey said that the revised hunting regulations were based on a need to keep the growing population in check.
“It helps us to control population growth,” Dobey said. “A lot of people have issues with bears there’s a lot of human-bear conflict.”
The U.S. Humane Society takes issue with the department’s bear population estimate, pointing to research that indicates there were fewer than 500 bears in Kentucky in 2013.
“Those numbers are not right, not based on peer-reviewed published studies,” said Wendy Keefove of the U.S. Humane Society, regarding the state’s numbers.
The Humane Society submitted an open records request for the state’s 2013 population study but never received a response, Keefover said.
Kentucky’s bear population is separated into two regions: the Big South Fork population located in South Central Kentucky and the Eastern Kentucky population.
The Big South Fork population is especially vulnerable by expanded hunting because there are only about 38 bears, according to the Humane Society.
“All those bears, the entire quota could come from the Big South Fork population, there’s nothing to prevent that,” Keefover said.
There are four hunting seasons for bears: a chase season in which hunters use dogs to chase but not kill bears, an archery season, a gun season and a short junior season in the winter.
Besides expanding the area in which bears can be hunted, the proposal also includes moving the start date for the archery season to late October rather than the Saturday after Thanksgiving.
The new regulation received initial approval by a legislative committee earlier this week and will have to be reviewed by the legislature’s natural resources committee.
(Photo credit: Ken Thomas/Creative Commons)