Whitesburg KY
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Pine Mtn. off limits to bear hunters




While Letcher County is one of three Kentucky counties where black bear hunting will become legal later this year, the area where most bears have been sighted will remain off limits to hunters.

The 6,000-acre Hensley- Pine Mountain Wildlife Management Area in Letcher County will be closed to all bear hunting and serves as a sanctuary for denning females, state officials says. On an additional 12,421 acres surrounding this wildlife management area, bear hunting will be limited to landowners, their spouses and dependent children hunting on their own property.

Collectively, the bear sanctuary will stretch from the town of Cumberland, in Harlan County, to the northern end of the wildlife management area near Whitesburg, bounded by KY 160 and U.S. 119 along either side of Pine Mountain.

“Since 2006, 77 percent of all radiocollared female bears have denned on Pine Mountain,” said Steven Dobey, black bear biologist for the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources. “Minimizing hunting pressure in this area will protect critical denning habitat for females and greatly assist in our ongoing management efforts.”

The Kentucky General Assembly last week approved a pending regulatory amendment that will create Kentucky’s first black bear season in more than 100 years.

“The 2009 hunt quota is a conservative one of 10 bears, or five females, whichever limit is reached first,” said Dobey. “The twoday season will occur on the third weekend in December and bears may only be hunted within a threecounty bear zone of Harlan, Letcher, and Pike counties. Research clearly shows that Kentucky’s bear population can sustain a hunt.”

The timing of this hunt is critical, as ongoing tracking of radiocollared bears shows that most females enter dens during the first week in December. As such, the hunt will concentrate efforts on male bears. The bear zone was identified based on a decade of population monitoring and research that indicates this area of the Pine, Cumberland and Black Mountain region has the highest bear densities.

“Sportsmen and sportswomen of Kentucky should be very excited,” said Dobey. “Bears are now well established in eastern Kentucky and research shows that population growth has risen steadily over the last 20 years.”

The purchase of a $30 black bear permit will be available only to Kentucky residents. All bears harvested must be Telechecked and taken to a departmentoperated check station. All bear hunters will be required to call an automated telephone number by 9 p.m. after the first day of the hunt to learn whether the quota has been reached. If the quota is met on day one, then the season will be closed. Baiting for bears and the use of hounds will be prohibited.


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