Niagara Gazette — A couple of weeks ago some folks were lucky enough to see a black bear in the town of Pendleton. The news and social media were all abuzz over the sighting, just as they were in the summer of 2009 when a lone black bear stayed in the county for quite some time. Niagara County residents were then, as they are now, hoping to catch a glimpse of an awesome beast that is an infrequent visitor to our region.
Even in what is considered their regular home territory elsewhere in New York, black bears remain a rare sight. I consider myself a fairly decent naturalist and I spend a lot of time in the woods observing and/or hunting wildlife, yet I have had just a dozen encounters with bears in the wilds of Allegany County over the past 20 years.
That isn’t a number that jumps out at you and screams “overabundance.” Officials with the Department of Environmental Conservation think otherwise.
Last month the DEC issued its black bear management plan for the period of 2014 to 2024 (you can download the 41-page document at tinyurl.com/NYbearplan). In it, the agency cites a healthy and expanding population of black bears in the Empire State (an estimated 8,000 bears) as a reason for concern, as it could lead to an increase in human-bear conflicts.
In hopes of maintaining the status quo in terms of population and interactions, the DEC in that same report outlined its plans to bolster the harvest of these magnificent animals.
As it stands now, hunting of black bears is limited to the Southern Tier, the Catskills, the Adirondacks and the Finger Lakes (the last territory an outcome of a 2011 expansion). If the DEC has its way, hunting will be expanded to all of upstate New York, including Niagara County — and you know how rare bears are here!