Surveys of Black Bear Hunters on Private Forest Ownerships in Eastern North Carolina

Over the past 30 years, American black bear (Ursus americanus; hereafter, bear) numbers have increased in eastern North Carolina. In response, the North Carolina Wildlife Resources Commission (NCWRC) set a goal to increase harvest rates of black bears on selected private lands in eastern North Carolina to manage the population. During 1993-2008, we annually surveyed leaseholders that leased hunting rights from Weyerhaeuser Company, a large landowner in this region, to better understand bear hunter and harvest dynamics. We received 1,937 surveys from 359 different leaseholders of which an average of 57% hunted bears. Approximately half of surveyed leaseholders set a minimum weight for harvestable bears and 25% limited number of bears harvested. Hunting leases that allowed bear hunting were larger in area than those that did not allow bear hunting (p = 0.01). Year (p = 0.02) and whether or not a hunting lease hunted bears with dogs (P = 0.01) influenced approval of hunting bears with dogs. Most (67%) leaseholders approved of bear hunting with dogs and we recommend NCWRC take steps to maintain this tool for managing the bear harvest. Bear hunters in eastern North Carolina appear to support a minimum harvest weight larger than the current NCWRC guidelines, indicating a need to improve hunter education of the biological reasons for this regulation. Overall, leaseholders appeared supportive of bear management in eastern North Carolina. The leaseholder survey may be an effective index of bear harvest in eastern North Carolina, although further work is needed to verify this relationship. This survey also was an effective communication tool and provided valuable information on hunter attitudes and bear harvest dynamics.

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