Riggles Gap Sportsmen's Club recently held a really great event: a landowner's appreciation dinner.
Few things are more important to the future of hunting than having private land open to public hunting. Only as hunters cooperate with a landowner in taking care of and respecting the land will a landowner welcome hunters on their land.
There were several landowners in attendance as guests of those who hunt on their land; Kudos to all of them. I personally have the privilege of hunting some very private land in this area and I know how grateful I am for that honor.
Several members of the Game Commission and The Fish and Boat Commission attended the event, and one can pick up some great nuggets of information if you just listen. For instance, a local WCO told that the trapping of urban bears (bears that loaf around in your yard rather than staying in the woods) has revealed that few of these trapped bears stay where they are relocated. In fact, they travel for great distances to get somewhere else - either back where they were trapped from or to some other location that suits them. One trapped bear, we were told, was relocated to the Scranton area and was checked again at the Williamsport airport and finally bagged in bear season in Mount Union.
For years now, to my own huge amusement, Game Commission personnel have played "musical bears." Here's how it goes.
Some years ago as I drove along in central Pennsylvania, I spotted a vehicle with a culvert trap attached in the parking lot of a restaurant so I whipped in there and went inside to talk to the officers involved.
Inside the trap was a 417-pound black bear first trapped in Pike County. Like bears everywhere, this one got its food wherever it was most accessible. Over a three-day period this male had killed 35 domestic rabbits and a bunch of chickens, damaging buildings in the process. He made a determined enemy of the landowner who demanded the Game Commission "get their bear out of there." So they trapped him and moved him 25 miles to a neighboring county. In a few days he was back!
So the two WCO's had to trap him again. Only it isn't easy to trap a bear the second time. Once caught in a culvert trap, there's nothing that will tempt a bear into another one. This time they had to use foot snares. So they managed to snare him this way, tranquilized him and placed him into a culvert trap for transfer. They were on their way across the state with their cargo when I spotted them.
Now comes the funny part. While they were on their way out of Pike County with this ear-tagged bear, they got a call on their radio. Seems a game protector from the very county they were going to was on his way to Pike County with a nuisance bear from his area.
So goes this game of "musical bears." It's a statewide problem obviously. And while I chuckle in amusement I ask myself how I would handle the problem any differently. I have no answers.
People create most nuisance bears. These bears are deliberately baited to cabins or backyards by folks who put out attractive foods so they can observe the bears and take pictures, etc. These bears become "trained" to receive handouts at certain times and places. It turns dangerous, however, when someone, perhaps a visitor to camp or an unsuspecting hiker, gets between a bear and his goodies. A bear is apt to just mow down anything that gets in his way.
Game Commission personnel are caught right in the middle when dealing with nuisance bears. Irate landowners demand that such bears be removed, when they are tired of putting out donuts for the bears. Realistically, there are only two ways to "remove" a bear. By trapping and transferring it elsewhere or killing it.
Trap and transfer is what is done but we are running out of places to put them. There are not enough remote areas left where all these bears can be released and not be heard from again. So game protectors all over the state are trapping their pesky bears and taking them to someone else's district, and while they are doing that, a fellow game protector is bringing his bear in.
It's funny, but it's serious too. It's an old story. You can't have more bears than the habitat will support. Bear numbers and hunter pressure must be strictly controlled. When a sufficient number of bears are not harvested in the fall bear season, you can almost hear the collective groaning all over the state. The WCO's know what that will mean, come spring.
Well, spring is here! Those nuisance bears are already out foraging wherever they find easy pickings. You can help by not leaving birdseed, Fido's food and other garbage outside where bears pick up these tempting aromas.
Last gobbler season, while I was sitting in my blind mid-morning, not paying as much attention as I should have been, I began to hear loud, snuffling noises. A sow bear was standing at the back of my blind, sniffing the various confusing smells emanating from the blind. Human scent, bologna sandwiches and insect repellent all combined to confuse that bear as he sniffed at the strange contraption that had suddenly showed up in his habitat.
When I stuck my head out the blind window for a look around a yearling bear shot down the deer trail and the sow in back of me did the same. Whew! My guardian angels saved my skin again.
I spent the next couple hours on the alert, wondering just what I would have done had that bear started tearing the blind down while I was still in it. What an exciting life I live.