Survey shows a slight increase in hunters looking for black bears
The hunting season for black bear opens today, but don't look for the woods to be flooded with hunters stalking bruins.
Despite a record number of black-bear tags sold last year, Oregonians are just barely getting excited about going into the woods after a healthy black bear population.
Almost 9 out of 10 bears shot in recent years by licensed hunters with bear tags were the prize of those stalking deer, elk or other species, making the black-bear hunt the great incidental season for Oregon.
But that's changing, according to the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife survey that shows a slight increase in hunters actually looking for bears.
In 2000, 91 percent of bears killed were felled by deer or elk hunters who carried an &
36;11 bear tag just in case the opportunity arose.
In 2001, 89 percent of the bears fell to guns loaded for deer or elk.
The percentage of folks going out and targeting bears is getting ever-so-slightly higher, says Don Whittaker, an ODFW biologist who heads the agency's bear program.
The five-month general black-bear season runs through Dec. 31 in Western Oregon and Nov. 30 in Eastern Oregon.
Last year, a record 40,614 people bought black-bear tags, and 37,135 said they actually hunted, Whittaker says.
Since black-bear tags are on sale through Sept. 27 (the eve of the general season for buck deer hunting), it is too early to guess whether this year's sales will eclipse last year's, Whittaker says.
Bear-hunting success is largely tied to the availability of berries, acorns and other bear forage. Success is generally higher in years with low forage, Whittaker says.
Though food sources are a bit low now, the dry forest provides troublesome conditions to stalk a bear.
The weather's been so hinky that it's hard to guess what's going to happen out there, Whittaker says. It's so popcorn-dry out there you can't sneak up on your own shadow.
For those hunters successful in their pursuit of black bears, they will be asked again this year to turn in a premolar tooth and tissue sample to help with an ongoing census study.
This marks the fourth year of the ODFW's mark-and-recapture study in which the bears shot by hunters play a key role in helping determine just how many bears are in southwestern Oregon's woods.
The region's bears were baited earlier this summer with food laced with tetracycline, which stains the bears' teeth and bones and is visible under ultraviolet light. The meat is safe to eat and does not stain the teeth or bones of humans.
ODFW researchers check the teeth of hunter-killed bears, and the percentage of marked bears to stained teeth helps generate a population estimate.
The program is voluntary, but Oregon's black-bear management plan calls for it to become mandatory if less than 30 percent of successful hunters turn in a tooth and tissue sample.
Last year, 42 percent of successful hunters in the area turned in teeth, which is the best compliance rate since the study began.
Hunters who provide a bear tooth will be notified of the age of the bear once lab analysis of the tooth is done, which usually takes about a year.
Packets explaining the tooth and tissue sample needs are available at several local vendors, who also are collecting the samples for the ODFW.
Locally, those include: the Black Bird Shopping Center in Medford; the Big R stores in White City and Klamath Falls; the Galice Resort and Nature's Art Taxidermy shop in Merlin; Eells and Stallsworth taxidermy shops in Grants Pass; and Daniken Taxidermy in Central Point.
Southern Oregon's ocean waters re-open to salmon anglers today as the second, and best, part of the summer recreational salmon season begins.
Fishing for chinook from Humbug Mountain near Port Orford south to Horse Mountain near Mendocino, Calif., re-opens this morning after almost a monthlong closure to keep anglers away from the migrating wild coho salmon off the south coast.
Usually, the second half of the season generates some of the highest chinook catches for anglers fishing out of Brookings, while those venturing out of Gold Beach also are intercepting chinook headed up the Rogue River.
August is always good fishing here, says Tony Kronemeyer, owner of the Sporthaven Marina at the Port of Brookings-Harbor.
Commercial fishermen motoring off the Chetco River mouth are seeing good collections of chinook in their depth-finders, and currents have brought cool, salmon-friendly water close to shore, Kronemeyer said.
Chinook fishing will remain open seven days a week through Sept. 15. Unlike other coastal sections, the Southern Oregon/Northern California region does not operate with a fish quota, so only the weather dictates if anglers can get after the chinook.
The ocean sport-fishing season for hatchery coho salmon ends tonight along the central and northern Oregon coasts, where catches have been strong enough to force an early closure to the season.
Through Sunday, sport-anglers had caught enough fin-clipped coho in waters from Humbug Mountain near Port Orford north to Cape Falcon that biologists believed the 22,500-fish quota was close enough to being reached that a closure was necessary.
(tonight), we calculated we would be at the quota or a little below, said Mike Burner, an ODFW biologist in the agency's marine program.
Despite less-than-ideal weather and ocean conditions, the recreational fleet had good catch rates during the season, which opened July 7 and was set to go through Sunday if the quota had not been reached.
Through last Sunday, 86 percent of the quota was reached.
Despite the hatchery coho closure, fishing will continue for chinook salmon through Oct. 31 along the central and northern Oregon coasts.
Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 776-4470, or e-mail