The Black Bears of the Adirondacks

Carrying Capacity and New York State

Black Bear Populations

According to NY DEC (Department of Environmental Conservation). The biological carrying capacity of the Adirondacks is around 3500 bears, but with recent changes, state officials decided that the carrying capacity had in fact gone down enough to warrant much looser hunting laws.

The Problem of People

With increasing growth of human populations in the mountains, bears are being forced to stray further to look for food and territory outside of their usual homes int eh Adirondacks, Catskills,and Allegheny Plateau. This increased population in areas not native to the bears has increased the rate of human bear-conflicts and prompted the DEC to attempt to manage the bear population.

Human-bear conflict is usually in the form bears going through trash left unsecured by humans, although bears can occasionally attack pets or act aggressively (this is extremely rare).

“Bear populations generally exceed human tolerance levels before they exceed habitat carrying capacity”- Alex Hurst, DEC Wildlife Biologist

Managing Populations

Even though the biological carrying capacity of the bear's native habitat had not gone down much, the DEC still decided to attempt to further manage bear populations to avoid interference with humans. This led them to try to allow increased hunting of black bears, which was in fact difficult. Most hunters in New York are only incidental bear hunters- they may stumble upon a bear when deer hunting, but most don't seek bears out.

The DEC lifted bans on hunting in some areas, lengthened the hunting seasons and others, and even proposed lifting bans on things like traps, hounds, and bait to attract more hunters (this was strongly objected to by many wildlife groups, including hunters).

Very well-know associations such as the Adirondack Council and Adirondack Mountain club have pushed the DEC to put more pressure on the public education side of their plan. Public education usually consists of things like how to secure trash and how to handle bears that may wander into the area (usually, the answer is leave them alone).

“In many cases if a bear has to be destroyed, including cubs, it’s usually the fault of humans that have been careless about leaving food out”- Neil Woodworth, executive director of Adirondack Mountain Club

Exam Questions

1. Do you think public education or better hunting laws would be more helpful in this situation?

2. Do humans have the right to claim territory that the bears can't have when we are the ones who forced them out of the mountains?

3. Why wold hunting groups be in favor of public education rather than looser hunting laws?