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Storm brings halt to black bear season

For Captain Frank Campbell and his southeastern Kentucky Conservation officers of the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, 2009 is nearing its close in much the same way it began — rescuing people, clearing downed trees from roads and checking on the welfare of many who lost electrical power because of winter storms.

On Friday, two days before the official first day of winter, a major storm system began dumping heavy snow over much of central and east Kentucky. Up to 20 inches of snow broke trees, closed roads, stranded motorists, damaged homes and property and caused power outages to approximately 106,000 Kentuckians.

Gov. Steve Beshear declared a State of Emergency for the state.

Seventh District Conservation officers Billy Collett, Willie Amburgey, Homer Pigman, Greg Watts, Shane Amburgey, Jason Campbell, Doug Vaughn and Jason Slone spent the weekend helping storm victims and clearing fallen trees from roadways in much the same fashion as they did in west Kentucky early in 2009.

“We had experienced it all before, so we pretty much knew what we needed to do,” said Campbell, referring to the thousands of hours he and hundreds of Department of Fish and Wildlife personnel devoted to helping west Kentucky dig out from under last January’s crippling ice storm. “We started out working bear season and ended up performing welfare checks, and opening roads.

“Officer Steve Combs needed a dozer to clear roads enough to reach a bear hunter on top of Black Mountain suffering a diabetic emergency,” Campbell continued. “We were advising hunters on Friday when the snow started to get off the top of Black Mountain. When it starts snowing on the tops of these mountains, it’s often not the same as when it snows in the flat lands.”

The storm included Kentucky’s first black bear hunting season among its victims. No hunters reported taking a bear.

“Most secondary roads were impassable due to snow or fallen trees,” said Kentucky State Bear Biologist Steven Dobey. “Hunters simply couldn’t get to the areas they intended to hunt — and likely would have taken bears.”

The two-day black bear season occurred Saturday and Sunday. Bear hunting was only allowed in Letcher, Harlan and Pike counties, which included some of Kentucky’s hardest hit areas.

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