VDGIF APPROVES CHANGES TO BEAR REGULATIONS
The 2017 Wildlife Regulation Review and Amendment Process started with a scoping process that resulted in VDGIF Staff presenting their recommendations to the VDGIF Board at their February 22nd meeting. That Board made some changes to Staff recommendations before sending the proposals to the next step - a public comment period open from March 17th through May 10th. After hearing public comment on the proposed amendments, Staff revised their recommendations, and at the May 24th Board meeting, the Board finalized regulation amendments that will be effective for the 2017–2018 and 2018–2019 hunting and trapping seasons.
Bear Regulation Changes:
1. Added a 3-day open early season to 37 counties (or portions of) the Monday through Wednesday in the week prior to the statewide archery season. This new early season is for all forms of hunting; dogs will be allowed everywhere they are allowed during the regular open season.
2. Changed the start date of bear hound training season to August 1st. The last Saturday in September will continue to be the closing date. Also, changed the bear hound training season dates in Brunswick, Charlotte, Greensville, Lunenburg, and Mecklenburg to match the western training season.
The proposed additional week of muzzleloading in 34 counties was not approved. It was estimated to have resulted in an additional 14% decrease in the bear population over 5 years.
10-YEAR BEAR HARVEST BY METHOD
2016-17 BLACK BEAR HARVEST
from VDGIF website
A total of 2,428 bears were harvested in Virginia during the 2016–17 bear hunting seasons, a 3% increase over the 2015-16 harvest and just a few bears more than the highest harvest recorded in Virginia (2014; 2423 bears). A number of factors influence the annual bear harvest including weather, mast crops, and shifts in hunter effort and participation. The 2016-17 hunting season was the second season with the new bear license requirement. In 2016, 30,868 resident bear licenses and 957 non-resident bear licenses were sold (119 more than 2015). Nonresident hunters from 30 states harvested 179 bears. Youth and apprentice hunters took advantage of this special weekend in October and harvested 77 bears. Approximately 67% of the total harvest was west of the Blue Ridge Mountains including 64% of the archery harvest, 63% of the muzzleloader harvest and 70% of the total firearms harvest (74% of the hound hunter harvest).
Mast production, while better overall than in 2015, was once again regionally spotty. Annual mast conditions greatly influence the distribution of the bear harvest among hunting seasons. As bears concentrate around available food sources, they may become more vulnerable to harvest by early season hunters when food is scarce (especially in poor mast years), and may den earlier to conserve resources. Therefore, years with poor or spotty mast production typically result in archery harvests that make up a greater proportion of the total harvest compared to years with good mast production. The average percent of bears killed during archery season varies from 19% of the total harvest in good mast years to 32% of total harvest in poor mast years. Once again, this year’s harvest fell within the expected range of harvests Virginia has experienced recently. Since 2008, harvests have exceeded 2,000 bears, the highest being this year closely followed by 2014 (2,423 bears) and the lowest in 2011 (2,008 bears).
Due to its tradition, effectiveness, and recreational value, regulated hunting is the primary bear population management option in Virginia with bear hunting seasons and regulations structured to meet the goals and objectives of Virginia’s Black Bear Management Plan. Data presented in this summary are preliminary and only include bears killed in the regulated bear hunting seasons. For additional details on black bear management in Virginia please read the 2012–2021 Black Bear Management Plan.
2016–2017 Black Bear Harvest
2017 VIRGINIA GENERAL ASSEMBLY
Several bills of interest to hound hunters were introduced in this year's General Assembly. House bill 2255 was introduced by Delegate Edmunds and originally aimed to create separate licenses for deer and turkey and also would have set the cost of each license, including the bear license, to $12. Eventually the bill was changed to simply "allow" DGIF to create a separate state resident youth license to hunt bear and set the initial cost at $5.50. This bill passed both chambers and is awaiting the governor's approval.
Two other bills would have imposed penalties to owners of dogs that are found on posted private property. Senate bill 1525, introduced by Senator Marsden and House bill 1900, introduced by Speaker of the House Howell, were both ultimately defeated this year. VBHA tried to keep members apprised of these bills and the dates they were being heard by Committees and Chambers. More than a dozen VBHA members traveled from Southwest Virginia to Richmond to participate in a rally against HB1900. An untold number of members contacted their representatives to express their opinions on these bills. Even though DGIF sets hunting regulations, it is absolutely necessary for us to stay informed during the law-making process and let our representatives hear from us when they are considering changes to our traditions.
AGE STRUCTURE OF BEAR HARVESTED 2008-2014
provided by Jaime Sajecki, DGIF Bear Project Leader
KNOW THE LAW
It is a class one misdemeanor in Virginia to remove a tracking collar (§ 18.2-97.1). The penalty may be up to a one thousand dollar fine and one year in prison. Obviously, there are other charges that may be filed related to the destruction or attempt to dispose of the collar. The theft of the dog (§18.2-97) or killing a dog (§ 18.2-144) are both class five felonies with prison time, fines and the loss of citizenship (loss of the right to keep and bear arms) as a consequence. It is unlawful for any person to deliver or release any animal not owned by that person to a pound, animal shelter or humane society or to pretend to be the agent of the owner (§ 18.2-144.2).
from the Virginia Hunting Dog Alliance website