I was in my office when the press release came in from the NYSDEC, announcing new areas for bear hunting were being opened this fall. I nearly fell out of my chair when I saw WMU 7M and Chenango County were included. I'd been of the belief that it would be several years before bears would be legal game in Chenango County, once densities grew to what DEC felt were adequate to support hunting them. Apparently they are already, or at least the wildlife managers felt so. The DEC estimates there are 6,000 to 7,000 black bears statewide, but that is an estimate, so it could be higher or lower on any given year.
The nearest county to Chenango that had bear hunting last year was Broome, where only 10 bears were taken last fall, six of them during the archery season. Another bordering county, Delaware saw hunters taking a total of 56, 27 during the archery season and 29 during the regular firearms season. Otsego County only had three taken, all during the firearms season.
In retrospect, I think I understand why DEC opted to open the new areas to bear hunting so soon. One needs only to look at the increasing bear-people conflicts occurring in northwestern New Jersey, northeastern Pennsylvania and in New York's Catskill region. Bear densities have steadily climbed in these areas, to the point where residents are complaining about the increasing conflicts with bears and the damages they're inflicting on property. As these areas' bbear densities grew, the overflow of bruins have increased their ranges into new areas where bears were previously rare or almost unheard of. By acting now, the DEC probably hopes to have some degree of management capabilities to keep the bear population in check before densities reach problematic levels.