One of the largest predators in North America. Black in appearance has a range throughout large portions of the U.S. and Canada.
Deciduous forest and broken farm land.
Following information was taken from a Division of Fisheries and Wildlife Press Release on March 18, 1999
Massachusetts' Berkshire Hills will provide the backdrop for the 15th Eastern Black Bear Workshop at the Eastover Resort in Lenox in late March. Biologists representing states and provinces across the eastern half of North America will meet to focus on "Managing Abundant Black Bears". The public is invited to an informative and entertaining presentation on the Natural History of the Black Bear, given by Dr. Gary Alt of the Pennsylvania Game Commission, on Tuesday, March 30 at 7:30 PM. Admission is free. State and provincial biologists will be available before and after the presentation to speak with the media on the current and future status of the black bear in their respective jurisdictions. The Workshop is Chaired by MassWildlife's Dr. John McDonald, whose doctoral research focused on the black bear population in the western part of the Commonwealth. As is the case in other regions, Massachusetts' black bear population is at or near record levels with more than 1,700 bears roaming the western and north central parts of the state. Current management challenges include determining how large a bear population will be tolerated by the public, informing people of the presence of bears and teaching the public how to coexist with an adaptable animal that averages between 150 and 350 lbs. in weight and is known to raid homes, campsites, cornfields, commercial bee hives and backyard birdfeeders in search of food. "For many biologists it's as much a people management issue as it is a wildlife management issue," concedes Dr. McDonald. "The Workshop will allow us to share our experiences and expertise in dealing with increasing bear populations, particularly where they occur in close proximity to increasing human populations. "Research on eastern black bears has shown that the animals can live 15 to 25 years in the wild and usually mature at age 3. Biologists from North Carolina and Pennsylvania report adult males reaching 800 lbs. live weight. Females typically have a single cub from their first pregnancy and then reproduce every other year thereafter. Fifty percent of the litters of experienced females contain 3 cubs. A female in Northampton was documented as having 5 cubs, 3 of which survived their first year. On average, there is a 70% survival rate among cubs.For directions to the public presentation contact Eastover Resort at 413-637-0625. For more information contact Dr. John McDonald at John.McDonald@state.ma.us or (508) 792-7270 x121.
WHO: Dr. Robert Deblinger, Assistant Director, MassWildlife WHAT: Presents a Summary of Black Bear Natural History and Management in MA WHEN: Thursday, March 14, 2002, 7:00 PM WHERE: Hampshire County Courthouse, Courtroom 1, Main St., Northampton, MA
Dr. Deblinger will describe how black bears were afforded protection in 1952 by the establishment of the first regulated hunting season. Prior to 1952 bears could be taken at any time and historically were considered uncommon in the state due to habitat loss and persecution as agricultural pests. Regulations continued to be modified, further conserving the black bear resource, allowing the population to increase in western Massachusetts through the second half of the 20th century. Beginning in 1980, MassWildlife, in conjunction with the University of Massachusetts, began a long-term radio telemetry field study of black bears to collect data on population status, home range, seasonal movements, survival rates, cub production, habitat preferences and related parameters. Data were further gathered from animals taken by licensed hunters during the open season or specimens recovered as road-kills. Analysis of the data suggests a current resident black bear population of 1,800 that is increasing at a rate of 8% per year. Bear mortality resulting from factors including regulated hunting, road-kills, poaching and public safety situations is exceeded annually by the number of cubs emerging from dens in the spring, resulting in the continued rise in population and increasing bear/human conflicts.
Nuisance bear complaints averaged 3 per year in the 1970s, 14 per year in
the 1980s and 78 per year in the 1990s. In 1999, 141 complaints were received
by MassWildlife. The figure was 109 in 2000 with the majority relating to corn
crop damage in the fall and bird feeder damage in the spring. The Connecticut
River Valley provides excellent bear habitat where the fertile floodplain and
its associated agriculture and residential areas meet the foothills and hardwood
ridges of the eastern Berkshires. The variety of habitats and seasonal food
sources have resulted in one of the highest bear population densities in the
United States. Dr. Deblinger will outline MassWildlife's comprehensive approach
to dealing with black bears that includes public education to identify and remove
artificial food sources, state and local regulations, population management
through regulated hunting and aversive conditioning to discourage black bears
from using suburban areas.
CONTACT: Dr. Rob Deblinger, 508.792.7270 x128; Jim Cardoza x124 or Bill
Davis x153 for additional information.
With the Massachusetts black bear population approaching 2,000 animals and
encounters between bears and people also on the rise, MassWildlife biologists
recommend a common sense approach to both living with black bears and managing
the overall bear population. "As with many species of wildlife
we're seeking a balance point between a healthy and viable number of bears, the amount of available bear habitat, and the interests of our 6 million citizens," states Jim Cardoza, Bear Project Leader for MassWildlife. "We've studied black bears in western Massachusetts for the past 30 years and know the population is growing and their range is expanding. We need to educate the public about coexisting with bears and also have to be proactive and utilize regulated hunting seasons to keep the population in check and
minimize conflicts with people."
In areas surrounding western Massachusetts cities like Pittsfield, Northampton,
North Adams and Greenfield, encounters with black bears in suburbia are commonplace
and both the public and public safety officials have
learned to leave the animals alone, allowing them to wander out of a developed area as easily as they wandered in. East of the Connecticut River however, bears are less common and the appearance of a bruin in Fitchburg, Worcester, Athol or Lowell can result in a chaotic atmosphere. "The best advice is to avoid the animal," observes Cardoza. "Leave it alone and let it pass. Treat it like you would a 150-pound skunk. Let local public safety officials do their job by dispersing crowds and keeping people away while the Environmental Police and MassWildlife biologists handle the bear." In most cases no intervention by Environmental Police or MassWildlife staff is necessary, as long as locals allow the bear to pass. Sometimes, wildlife professionals will coax a bear to move in a desired direction using a minimal human presence or noise-making devices. The next level of response involves chemically immobilizing the animal, but may only be attempted when the bear is contained and isolated from the public. Immobilants take 20 minutes to act so wildlife officials are cautious about using the chemicals if the bear might bolt into the night or through a crowd of bystanders. The final option for a bear situation is to humanely destroy the animal. Killing the bear is a last resort, used by local, State or Environmental Police when there is an immediate risk to public safety. Sadly, it is often the public that places themselves at risk by chasing or harassing a bear and creating a safety risk where one did not exist.
In the end, the bear is destroyed to protect the very people who disturbed
it. Beyond educating people in cities and towns where bears may become more
frequent visitors, MassWildlife uses regulated hunting seasons to both slow
the population growth rate and to utilize the valuable and renewable black bear
resource. Carefully controlled hunting seasons can remove bears where they are
damaging commercial corn fields, orchards or apiaries while reinforcing other
bears' instinctive fear of humans. Bears taken during the open seasons provide
valuable meat, hides and recreational opportunities for licensed sportsmen and
women and also provide hard data used by MassWildlife biologists who examine
every animal brought in for mandatory checking. Cardoza concludes, "The
bottom line is that there are likely more bears and certainly more people in
Massachusetts than at any time since the 1700s so the chances for encounters
and conflicts are at a peak. We need to use all the tools at our disposal including
education, research and population management through regulated hunting to maintain
a balance between bears and people. With an informed public and a bear population
compatible with available habitat, we can enjoy black bears in the Commonwealth
indefinitely." For more information, contact Jim Cardoza, 508.792.7270
Bear Country COMBO
(VHS or DVD)
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