Hunters took four black bears during Kentucky's third season for the bruins, held during the weekend of Dec. 10-11.
Neil Perkins, of Hallie, Ky., took a 350-pound male bear in Letcher County that is the heaviest bear taken since Kentucky's first bear season in 2009, said Steven Dobey, bear program coordinator for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. Hunters took two bears in Letcher County and two in Harlan County.
Snow and ice storms created difficult hunting conditions during Kentucky's two previous bear seasons. A total of six bears have now been taken in three seasons. Hunters purchased 484 permits for the 2011 hunt.
Black bears moved into Kentucky by natural range expansion from West Virginia, Virginia and Tennessee. At the present time only three southeastern counties – Harlan, Letcher and Pike – are open to bear hunting in Kentucky.
"Our highest bear densities are on Pine Mountain, which runs through Harlan and Letcher counties and extends into Pike County along its southeastern boundary,” said Dobey. "Harlan and Letcher counties border Virginia, which has had a fall bear season for decades.”
Hunters are required to register their harvest online or over the telephone through the state's Telecheck system. Hunters are also required to bring the bears to a check station so biologists can collect information on the bear's age, sex, weight, body measurements, and the presence of tags or tattoos used to mark some animals.
Perkins' bear had some history. "We had captured him in May 2010 in Hyden, Ky., in Leslie County for nuisance-related behavior, and released on Hensley-Pine Mountain WMA,” said Dobey. "At that time he weighed about 200 pounds.”
Dobey said the bear likely weighed more than 400 pounds before it was field dressed.