Big game hunters seeing bears on the prowl
by Ron Kolodziej

In the past few weeks I’ve had a number of hunters comment on the apparent abundance of bear and bear sign in the northern zone. I guess some hunters are seeing quite a few while others are seeing not so many.

According to the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation, this year’s early season bear take was very low, due in large part to a good mast crop, which kept the bruins from ranging very far. Obviously, they have a preference for staying where the food supply is plentiful and readily available.

During last year’s big game season hunters reported a total take of 521 bruins in the Adirondacks, 255 of them during the early season, far less than the total tally for this year’s early season. However, the agency expects we’ll see a larger take during the regular season, something that happens quite often when the early season take is low.

A good beech crop this fall is expected to result in a correspondingly good regular season bear take, providing the weather cooperates as well. Also, a good indicator of a plentiful bruin supply is how many younger bears are found in areas where they’re not normally seen. There have been a number of reliable sightings in recent weeks as far south as Montgomery County, which is not a bear-hunting county. I’ll hazard a guess that most of those bruins will be 2-1/2 years old, since that’s the age at which Momma Bear normally makes her progeny unwelcome, as she’s preparing to enter another breeding cycle.


Those younger bears have no choice but to establish their own range elsewhere. With an abundance of older, stronger bears around, that range becomes harder to find and establish and that forces younger bears to range farther from the area in which they were born.

Older, larger bears, especially boars, don’t cotton to the company of younger bears and they let them know they’re unwelcome. That means these younger bruins often range into areas where they’re not normally seen, such as Montgomery County. This is not an area where bears can be legally taken, so it at least gives them a place to relax a bit.


You’ll know if bruins are in your area. Just watch for demolished bee hives, wrecked bird feeders, upturned and emptied trash cans, etc. It’s often been said that bears will eat anything that doesn’t eat them first, so if you want to discourage rampant bears, regardless of which county you live in, just remove any food supply that may be attracting them and they’ll soon move on.

Also, if you see a bear in your back yard, don’t be too aggressive in trying to shoo them off. Your efforts might not have the desired result, since bruins are like humans in that they have varied personalities. Some may be passive and move on while others may stand their ground and resist. That could prove troublesome, so don’t take chances.

For some really helpful information on the subject of bruins go to the DEC website at Just type “bears” into the subject box and it’ll take you right to a page devoted to discouraging nuisance black bears.


Let’s switch gears a bit now.

Several years ago there was a concerted effort to attract support for relocating elk into the Adirondack and Catskill Parks. You may remember the surveys that were distributed regarding that subject. Personally, I had ambivalent feelings about that matter, mostly because I didn’t see it as doing any favors for the elk.

However, the neighboring state of Pennsylvania has a healthy elk herd and an annual hunting season for that species. The Pennsylvania Game Commission recently reported that 53 of 57 licensed elk hunters in that state were successful during the 2011 elk season.

Of that total, 19 of the critters were antlered elk and 34 were antlerless. The heaviest of the antlered elk tipped the scales at 930 pounds (live weight) and was a 9x8. It green-scored 426-5/8 and if that score holds after the mandatory 60-day drying period it will rank second in Pennsylvania’s record book listing for non-typical elk.

Other high scoring elk taken included a 772-pound 8x7, a 780-pound 9x0, a 711-pound 6x7.

The heaviest antlerless elk was 601 pounds.

Of course, comparing New York state to Pennsylvania is comparing apples to oranges, but given an “either/or” scenario I’d rather see elk released here than wolves.