North Carolina’s best bears

Wildlife biologists have a maxim: good habitat translates into more game animals. But the public often misunderstands the rule. It depends upon the adaptability of a species, and no game animal is more adaptive than black bears. It’s why bear numbers are growing in North Carolina’s mountains.

Mountain bears

“Over the years de facto (western) bear sanctuaries have expanded as developers came in, bought large tracts of land and put houses in there,” said David Stewart, a biologist with the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “It cut off access of folks who used to hunt (public lands) and turned those places into bona fide sanctuaries.”

Last season, hunters bagged 285 bruins in the Nantahala National Forest, the fourth-highest total on record, and a record 236 in the Pisgah National Forest.

Private land allows baiting to concentrate bears, but it’s banned at public land.

“Mast crop failures (in the west) puts bears on the move,” Stewart said.

Coastal bears

More bears (2,138) were harvested in eastern North Carolina than in the west (1,264) last season, but the public-lands harvest made up only five percent of the total, compared to 45 percent in the west.

Among game lands in eastern North Carolina, hunters took 25 bears off the Croatan National Forest, followed by Bucklands Game Lands and the Dare Bombing Range Game Lands.

About Craig Holt 1382 Articles
Craig Holt of Snow Camp has been an outdoor writer for almost 40 years, working for several newspapers, then serving as managing editor for North Carolina Sportsman and South Carolina Sportsman before becoming a full-time free-lancer in 2009.