Pennsylvania Game News - October 2020 - 39

Pennsylvania had the habitat to support
more bears. Expanding the population
could reduce the chances the state's large
number of bear hunters would cut too
deeply into core populations.
The Game Commission also began
campaigning for a bear-hunting license
that would limit hunter numbers and
harvest. But as the Legislature considered
the recommendation, few management
options were immediately available.

Left with no other promising alternatives, the Game Commission closed bearhunting seasons in 1977 and 1978. The
closures would help boost bear numbers,
and provide more time to follow bears
with telemetry collars and mark them
with ear tags. Having more tagged bears
- a bigger sample - allowed for greater
accuracy in estimating bear populations.
Pete Duncan, then on the staff of the
Joint Legislative Conservation Committee, paid close attention to Alt's work.
"It didn't take a great mind to observe
that Alt and his crew, by taking a cautious
and thorough approach, knew what they
were doing," Duncan said. "It came right
out of the scientific process. It wouldn't be
hurried, but when completed, you could
count on the results."
The bear population benefited greatly
from the double season closure, as well
as closing bear hunting in peripheral
bear-range counties, which would go on
for years, Alt emphasized.
"I think the 1977-78 statewide closure
and the termination of hunting bears
in much of their peripheral range for a
number of subsequent years was a real
turning point in the management of Pennsylvania's bears," Alt noted. "It was the
point in our history where we knew we
OCTOBER 2020

had the tools in place to protect the bears
from being grossly overharvested, and we
had set the stage for an era of population
increase and range expansion."
Still, not everyone was happy about
more bears; the damage they caused to
property could be costly. Alt found that
public attitudes toward bears depended
upon their abundance.
"The more bears there were, the
less popular and more expendable they
became," Alt wrote in an October 1980
Game News article.
Today, it would appear Pennsylvanians
have grown more tolerant of bears.

Alt analyzed county harvest data from
1949 to 1979 to see where bears were
established in Penn's Woods. It showed
bears had been harvested in 40 counties,
but that 90 percent of the overall harvest
came from only 18 counties. All were
forested, mountainous and remote.
It raised the question: Were bears
holding back, or being held back. That 40
counties had bear kills over the 30-year
period, inferred bears were willing. Time
would prove that suggestion right.
To strengthen the agency's black-bear
research, Alt in 1979 began to train wardens on how to catch and ear-tag bears.
He developed procedures for drugging
bears, assigned counties tagging goals and
convinced the agency to purchase equipment and traps, and commit to the concept
of wardens tagging bears while on duty.
"Alt's tagging program - now 40 years
old and virtually unchanged - allows a
sample of bears to be ear-tagged across
the bear range every year and recovered
in the annual harvest, thereby allowing
population size to be estimated using
mark-recapture statistics," Ternent noted.
39



Pennsylvania Game News - October 2020

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Pennsylvania Game News - October 2020

Contents
Pennsylvania Game News - October 2020 - Cover1
Pennsylvania Game News - October 2020 - Cover2
Pennsylvania Game News - October 2020 - Contents
Pennsylvania Game News - October 2020 - 2
Pennsylvania Game News - October 2020 - 3
Pennsylvania Game News - October 2020 - 4
Pennsylvania Game News - October 2020 - 5
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Pennsylvania Game News - October 2020 - 26
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Pennsylvania Game News - October 2020 - 64
Pennsylvania Game News - October 2020 - Cover3
Pennsylvania Game News - October 2020 - Cover4
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