As Bear Population Grows, More States Look At Hunts
Wildlife officials don't usually base hunting policies on how the public feels about an animal. But the black bear seems to be different. The revered king of the forest has bounced back from near-extinction to being a nuisance in some areas. Some states are trying to figure out if residents can live at peace with bears, or if they'd rather have hunters keep numbers in check.
In places like the Smoky Mountains, black bears have always been part of the landscape.
These days, visitors like Elizabeth Bryant of Ohio shoot video of encounters with bears. As you can hear someone say in her footage, "It's so awesome."
But national parks are no longer the only places humans are running into black bears. Numbers from the Eastern seaboard to California have shot up in recent decades.
Tennessee, for instance, now has an estimated population between 4-5,000, up from a few hundred in the 1970's. The relatively shy creatures have sauntered into areas where they're less welcome.
"We are receiving complaints from the public that say they don't want the bears there, that we need to do something to get rid of them," says Daryl Ratajczak, the chief of wildlife for Tennessee's agency that oversees hunting. "And we understand their feelings."
Ratajczak says that being highly adaptable, bears will continue to spread if left unchecked.
Bear image via Shutterstock