Early Black Bear Hunting Season

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Licensed hunters brought 98 black bears to MassWildlife check stations during the early season which ran from September 4 through September 22. Seventy-six bears were tagged during the same season last year. The largest bear reported weighed 345 pounds field dressed and was taken in Westfield. MassWildlife?s Western District office in Pittsfield checked 50 bears, the Connecticut Valley District in Belchertown checked 18, Bitzer Trout Hatchery in Montague checked 29 and the Central District office checked one. The season was open in Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire, Hampden and Worcester counties.

The late bear season runs from November 19 through November 24. A bear permit is required in addition to a hunting or sporting license. Five bear were taken in the late season in 2000.

MassWildlife biologists estimate 1,900 to 2,000 bears in Massachusetts, the majority found in the hill towns west of the Connecticut River. Data collected from check stations on sex ratio, age structure and reproductive rates, combined with an ongoing radio telemetry study in cooperation with UMass, suggest the bear population is growing at about 8% per year. For the population to remain stable the number of bear mortalities would have to equal the number of young bears being recruited into the population. The population continues to increase, however, as the combined mortality from regulated hunting, road kills, public safety kills and illegal kills is less than the recruitment rate. Several bears taken during the 2001 early season had ear tags or radio collars, indicating they were part of the MassWildlife study. Data from these animals will be particularly useful in determining longevity, movements and habitat preferences among the Massachusetts bear population. For more information, contact Jim Cardoza, 508.792.7270 x124.