Senator Harry Brown (R-Jacksonville) has introduced a bill in the state senate that would allow hunting of black bears over bait and would require in-state hunters to purchase a $10 tag before they could hunt, kill or possess a black bear.

Since its creation in 1947, the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission has opposed baiting of game birds and wild animals, including black bear.

Brown's bill, Senate 352, has seven main provisions:


* It would amend General Statute 113-291.1 that prohibits the taking of black bears with the use or aid of any salt, salt lick, grain, fruit, honey, sugar-based material, animal parts or products, or other bait, except as provided by the Commission. In other words, the Commission would be given authority to allow the use of certain baits to hunt bears.


* In-state hunters with valid big-game licenses also would be required to purchase an annual $10 bear tag.


* The bill would exempt people holding lifetime licenses before July 1, 2014 (and others who have lifetime hunting privileges because of other legal reasons), from having to purchase special bear tags.


* It would increase the fee for a non-resident bear-hunting license from $125 to $225.


* It would repeal Session Law 1981-828 that prohibits the taking of bears in Bladen County by use of bait.


* It would amend GS 113-276 to provide a landholder and the landholder's spouse and dependents under age 18 who are taking wildlife on the landholder's land without a license are not exempt from the bear stamp.


* The bill also would allow the Commission to adopt rules exempting individuals from the non-resident bear-hunting license requirements, the bear-stamp requirements, and the non-resident big-game hunting-license requirements.


Current regulations allow hunters who use dogs to chase bear to "strike" a bear's trail near a bait pile of natural food stuffs, such as corn, that might have been placed in an area to draw whitetail deer near a deer-hunter's stand. But non-dog hunters (still hunters or stalkers) are banned from hunting over or near bait piles.


Before this change in baiting laws (previously all baiting was prohibited to all hunters), several dog bear hunters were cited for "hunting over bait" because their hounds had chased bears to or past corn piles or other kinds of bait piles.


However, use of processed foods such as candy or chocolate has been totally illegally for baiting of any kind, whether a hunter uses dogs, hunts from a stand or stalks bear.


North Carolina's estimated statewide bear population is 16,000, as compared with 1.4 million whitetail deer. The bear population is growing at a 6-percent annual rate.


Some biologists worry that the harvest will increase greatly if bear baiting is allowed, and hunt-club members who run bears with dogs fear that land-lease costs will climb astronomically if bear baiting and bear tags are approved.


Brown's bill would become law July 1, 2014, if it passes both legislative houses and is signed by the governor.