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BigOutdoors
09-18-2010, 07:17 AM
Trying to learn more about bears
Rob Streeter Outdoors
Published: 12:46 a.m., Friday, September 17, 2010

An enterprising young graduate student at the State University of New York Environmental Science and Forestry school is really looking forward to bear season, which gets under way in September. Courtney LaMere is hoping to shed some light on how Adirondack black bears react to food sources in terms of reproduction rates.

LaMere's project will collect data from the reproductive tracts of female bears harvested during this fall's season. The hypothesis he's working on is that when availability of natural food sources like beechnuts drops, the number of nuisance bear complaints goes up. This sounds pretty simple, but science demands proof and his study may provide just that.

The project is also looking at another theory, that the bear's reproductive success is tied to the availability of beechnuts. Thus in years when this important natural food source is unavailable, fewer cubs are born.

To test these theories, LaMere is asking hunters to save the reproductive tracts from any sows bagged during the fall. The samples can be dropped off at a number of collection points in the Adirondacks. The collection locations are at a number of meat processors and taxidermists in the region.

LaMere will then examine the reproductive tracts to gather information on the mating success of individual bears. There is scarring that is left behind in this tissue from cubs that were born and also from ovulation. The examination, along with the age data from the bears, can yield valuable data on how many cubs the bear had during its lifetime.

In addition to the data LaMere is putting together, DEC collects the premolar tooth from the bears for aging purposes. The teeth grow a lot like a tree, and it is possible to count the growth rings. Successful Adirondack hunters should submit a tooth for aging. There are a number of taxidermists who participate in this collection program, and DEC suggests that hunters contact their local taxidermist.

Here in New York state, black bear populations have been on the rise. Some areas of the Catskills were opened up in recent years because populations had increased in places where bear hunting was previously never offered. In the Adirondacks last season, hunters bagged a total of 914 bears, which includes 44 taken by archers, 426 taken during the special early season in September, 128 during the muzzleloading season, and 216 taken by rifle hunters.

The percentage of female bears in the harvest last season was 46 percent.

While we really are not thought of as a black-bear-hunting destination, New York ranks high among states in the Northeast in terms of the number of bears taken by hunters. In fact, last year's Adirondack harvest was an all-time record for the area. All indications are that this will be a good year as well.

For more information on the Adirondack Black Bear project, check out the website that has been set up to provide information at http://www.esf.edu/aec/research/bearproject/. (http://www.esf.edu/aec/research/bearproject/) There is a page of details for hunters on what they need to do to help out, as well as a detailed list of the taxidermists and processors that are participating in the study.

This sounds like a worthy research project and it would be great if everyone could get behind this young biologist and help out with the study. With all of the available collection points that he has set up, most successful bear hunters should be able to provide the samples he needs. The study information provided by LaMere through his research project will certainly help provide information on population densities. Hopefully he can get enough hunters to help out.

Rob Streeter is an outdoors columnist for the Times Union. Reach him at rstreeter@nycap.rr.com (rstreeter@nycap.rr.com), or send items to 961 Stoner Trail Road, Fonda, NY 12068.