CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- West Virginia's bear hunting regulations for 2013 are now set.
At their recent quarterly meeting, members of the state Natural Resources Commission changed a couple of the seasons proposed in February by Division of Natural Resources biologists, but accepted most of the DNR proposals without changing them.
Chris Ryan, the DNR's supervisor of game management services, believes one of the commission's changes will increase the bear kill even more than anticipated.
"We had proposed a three-day, mid-October 'early' bear season for the mountain counties," Ryan said. "Commissioner [David] Truban put forth an amendment to make it a six-day season and hold it Sept. 21-27. The other commissioners approved the amendment."
DNR officials already were expecting another 2013 regulation change, one that would allow hunters in the mountain counties to kill bears during the buck deer season, to trigger a record-breaking bear harvest. Ryan believes the commission's change to the early season will increase the kill beyond biologists' expectations.
"I think it's likely that we'll get a bigger harvest now than we would have under the original proposal," he said. "Giving hunters an extra three days in the mountain counties, especially with one of those days being a Saturday, should definitely result in more bears being killed."
Almost as soon as they expanded the early season, commission members voted to tweak the DNR's proposal to allow bear hunting during the mountain counties' buck season.
"Commissioner Truban suggested an amendment that would restrict concurrent bear-buck hunting in those counties to private lands only," Ryan said. "The commission approved that amendment, too."
The change essentially removes from the bear-kill equation any hunters who might have planned to hunt on the Monongahela National Forest or on any of several state wildlife management areas. Ryan added, however, that he doesn't expect the change to have a major effect on the overall harvest.
"Keep in mind that concurrent bear-buck hunting in the mountain counties is by lottery-drawn permit only," he explained. "So the change likely won't have that big an effect."
Ryan said DNR officials would advise hunters who plan to apply for permits to secure access to tracts of private land beforehand.