'Nothing would indicate to us that we're running short on bears'

'Nothing would indicate to us that we're running short on bears'
FILE - In this Jan. 11, 2010 photo, a Black bear is seen in a tree in Medford, Ore.. Police monitored the animal throughout the day and hope that he will return to the wild at nightfall. It's that time of year again in the Intermountain West, when the lumbering beasts are piling on the calories to prepare for the winter ahead and hibernation. But finding enough food isn't easy. As a result, some communities are seeing more bears poking through garbage or nosing around backyard orchards. State wildlife agents have been kept busy, advising people to put away bird feed, stow trash and keep any other smelly objects under wraps. (AP Photo/Medford Mail-Tribune, Roy Musitelli)

MEDFORD, Ore. (AP) — Oregon wildlife managers are planning to revamp the management plan for black bears — years after the update was required to be done.

The plan was set for revision in the early 2000s, but the commission shelved it in favor of plans for black-tailed deer, cougar and other animals, said Ron Anglin, administrator of the agency's Wildlife Division.

Now, it is one of the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife's highest priorities, and it should be before a commission by the end of next year for final adoption, Anglin said.

Williams-based group Big Wildlife, which wants the plan to be much less hunter-oriented, filed notice in mid-November that it would sue the agency for failing to update the plan, the Mail Tribune reported.

The general public would rather see a more "cautious" approach that reduces bear killing in sport seasons as well as for damage and nuisances, Big Wildlife program director Spencer Lennard said.

Lennard believes the department should pull back bear killing until it can craft new science into its plan.

According to department statistics, Oregon sells about 30,000 bear tags annually, with about 1,700 bears killed statewide during the spring and fall hunting seasons. The agency estimates there are from 20,000 to 30,000 bears in Oregon.

For years, Big Wildlife and other wildlife advocacy groups have been critical of the agency's management strategies for top predators such as bears and cougars. They say that the state's liberal hunting policies and laws allowing the killing of nuisance animals are out of step with Oregon's public at large.

The new plan will incorporate new studies and procedures since the plan's last update, Anglin said. That would include the department's annual mark-and-recapture study to estimate bear populations, which remain fairly steady and healthy, he said.

"Nothing would indicate to us that we're running short on bears anywhere," Anglin said.

Lennard said recent spikes in hunter-killed bears in southwestern and Eastern Oregon could suggest a species under duress.

"The numbers don't necessarily mean there are more animals," he said. "It could be that there are less, they're having a hard time and they're stressed."


Information from: Mail Tribune, http://www.mailtribune.com/



Copyright 2010 The Associated Press.