"So, to make sure we covered all the bases, we calculated our potential [bear-buck season] harvest on success rates that ranged from 6 to 10 percent."
Those calculations were based on average food and weather conditions. This fall, however, has turned out to be anything but average.
Acorns, a staple in bears' autumn diets, are scarce. Even with relatively abundant food items such as beechnuts and hickory nuts factored in, Carpenter described the overall food supply as "spotty to scarce."
When bears don't have enough to eat, they tend to cut their losses by hibernating earlier. Pregnant females in particular have been known to enter their dens as early as the third week of November.
Unfortunately for hunters, this year's buck season begins Nov. 25, the latest possible date for it to open. Carpenter expects at least some bears to be denned up by then.
"It's going to be interesting," he said. "The calendar definitely worked against us this time. Hunters probably won't see as many females as they otherwise might have. The good news is that there will still be a lot of male bears available for harvest."
Reach John McCoy at johnmc...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-1231.