Black Bear Hunting

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Montana residents purchased more black bear hunting licenses this year than in 2001 leading state wildlife officials to suspect that many Montanans unexpectedly enjoyed the new mandatory bear identification training and decided to give black bear hunting a try.

"FWP's mandatory bear identification training and testing may have actually stimulated more interest in bear hunting this year," said Thomas Baumeister, FWP Hunter Education coordinator. Resident black bear license sales are up by about 30 percent over 2001.

Preliminary statistics from FWP's new Automated License System show total black bear license sales at more than 17,300, compared to 16,600 in 2001, for an overall increase of about four percent. One of the features of ALS, the state's new computerized license sales system, is a more rapid delivery of sales statistics. FWP's ALS stats show the bulk of the total black bear hunting-license sales increase came from the 30 percent boost in individual residents who purchased 6,739 black bear licenses in 2002 compared to 5,197 in 2001.

Nonresident sales, however, dropped about 50 percent--from 1,093 in 2001 to 549 this year--perhaps due to a nonresident-license fee increase. A nonresident black bear hunting license sells for $350, compared to $120 last year.

More than 34,000 people have earned a Montana bear identification certificate by successfully completing FWP's innovative training program. Black bear hunters must complete the training and pass a test to purchase a black bear hunting license. The program, which can be found on-line at www.fwp.state.mt.us , aims to prevent mistaken identity killings of federally protected grizzly bears and to help Montana maintain its black bear hunting season. Baumeister said black bear hunters are told, "If in doubt, don't shoot."

The bear identification program consists of brief training information, and 15 multiple-choice questions. The test can be taken on-line, by mail or at any FWP office. The entire program takes about 20 minutes to complete. The test may be retaken until the individual achieves a passing grade of 80 percent. The hunter needs to pass the test only once to be certified to hunt black bears in Montana.