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Montana Proposed Black Bear Season Changes

bigsky2

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I wanted to put this in a separate thread because I feel like it is flying under the radar and could have some big effects on our bear populations. Commissioner Cebull from Region 5 is proposing a statewide bear season closure of June 15th. Additionally, hunters will no longer be required to present harvested bears to FWP, and will instead be required to submit two teeth. Spring bear harvest already increased 11% with the introduction of hound hunting, and now we will be increasing harvest even further. Although I like the idea of hunting in June when bears are much more active, I wouldn't be surprised at all if this leads to an over harvest of bears. Maybe quotas need to be implemented as a safeguard. If we are going to increase harvest, it doesn't make sense to me to do away with the in person reporting. I feel that there will be a lot of hunters that will be too lazy to send in the teeth.

Here's the full amendment- https://fwp.mt.gov/binaries/content...esponse-to-statewise-black-bear-amendment.pdf

Comments will be accepted through December 7th by emailing the commission at [email protected] .
 
Where’s the harvest stats located that show the 11%? I only see the 2021 bear harvest report and it’s only broken down by residents and nonresidents for spring and fall seasons. @bigsky2
 
General comment/ opinion, no derail intended. Predators need to be decreased. Bears, lions, wolves, and coyotes. I personally feel there should be a state funded bounty on coyotes. $25 per tail. Grizzlies delisted and throw in a meaningful tag allotment.
Painting a broad swath.
Yeah, I know...
 
General comment/ opinion, no derail intended. Predators need to be decreased. Bears, lions, wolves, and coyotes. I personally feel there should be a state funded bounty on coyotes. $25 per tail. Grizzlies delisted and throw in a meaningful tag allotment.
Painting a broad swath.
Yeah, I know...
You're Disney's worst enemy.
 
Where’s the harvest stats located that show the 11%? I only see the 2021 bear harvest report and it’s only broken down by residents and nonresidents for spring and fall seasons. @bigsky2
I'm going off Region 4's recommendations for the proposed amendment. I should have clarified the 11% increase due to hound hunting was just in region 4, which is where the majority of the hound hunting occurs. This was even with restricted access due to near-record snowpack.
 
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I'm going off Region 4's recommendations for the proposed amendment. I should have clarified the 11% increase due to hound hunting was just in region 4, which is where the majority of the hound hunting occurs. This was even with restricted access due to near-record snowpack.

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@bigsky2 makes more sense. Thank you. There was a decent amount of guys running roads in the areas with good road systems. Snowpack surprised me how it ended up burning off for the last couple weeks of may in a lot of that country. I don’t know if the change would lead to over harvesting though. Not sure if FWP even has a clue on the true population.
 
@bigsky2 makes more sense. Thank you. There was a decent amount of guys running roads in the areas with good road systems. Snowpack surprised me how it ended up burning off for the last couple weeks of may in a lot of that country. I don’t know if the change would lead to over harvesting though. Not sure if FWP even has a clue on the true population.
FWP is working on an IPM to better estimate black bear populations. The accuracy of that IPM will be strongly correlated with accurate harvest data. Removing the mandatory inspection in some regions could result in less accurate harvest information and thus less accurate population estimates.
 
FWP is working on an IPM to better estimate black bear populations. The accuracy of that IPM will be strongly correlated with accurate harvest data. Removing the mandatory inspection in some regions could result in less accurate harvest information and thus less accurate population estimates.
Let’s be honest. They could use their app to require mandatory harvest reporting on all species like other states if it truly mattered to them. I don’t have any complaints with the current reporting requirements and would continue to support them keeping them. However, I don’t mind the additional couple weeks being added.
 
Let’s be honest. They could use their app to require mandatory harvest reporting on all species like other states if it truly mattered to them. I don’t have any complaints with the current reporting requirements and would continue to support them keeping them. However, I don’t mind the additional couple weeks being added.
There’s still mandatory reporting, just not mandatory inspection. This means that even submitting two teeth for aging could be done incorrectly, or misreporting of the sex of harvested bear, no way to determine if a harvested female was lactating or not, etc., etc.

Also I asked some Helena staff a while back about using the app, and there were some legal/privacy issues with implementing harvest reporting via the app. I have no idea if/how it’s been resolved, but nonetheless, not the correct solution for this particular issue.
 
There’s still mandatory reporting, just not mandatory inspection. This means that even submitting two teeth for aging could be done incorrectly, or misreporting of the sex of harvested bear, no way to determine if a harvested female was lactating or not, etc., etc.
By supporting the current reporting requirements I meant the entire process - reporting/inspection. No issues taking the time to bring the skull/hide in to get inspected. Seems like a non issue to change it.
 
Also I asked some Helena staff a while back about using the app, and there were some legal/privacy issues with implementing harvest reporting via the app. I have no idea if/how it’s been resolved, but nonetheless, not the correct solution for this particular issue.
Doesn’t make much sense
 
Doesn’t make much sense
I can’t remember the details and didn’t really get it to begin with, but I think it had to do with location tracking and enforcement-related stuff. Like, there’d be issues if someone tried to make a case based off phone location info without a warrant, that kind of thing. I believe there is some method of voluntary reporting(?) on the app or at least the website, but I don’t use the app so don’t know. The issue was with requiring people to do it and then some sort of violation of privacy laws if location info was being shared.

Otherwise, yeah, it seems like a silver bullet to solve or at least help out with a lot of things assuming it worked.
 
As much as I like the thought of hunting bears until mid June, it seems like it would be hard on the resource, at least in region 4.

"Current harvest rates in the Snowies, Little Belts, and Crazy Mountains are not sustainable. Even in The Beartooths, where a female harvest quota is in place, we have documented a declining population. Increased harvest, especially female harvest, will accelerate these declines.

Black bears in the island mountain ranges of central Montana have one of the lowest reproductive rates of any large mammal in North America. Consequently, these populations are susceptible to over harvest and recovery from over harvest takes many years. For example, the bear population in BMU 520 was significantly over harvested in the mid-1980s and took 15 years to recover using very restrictive female harvest sub-quotas."

I know based on my own observations that hunting in June would be much easier. I run 20+ cameras in the island ranges in central MT and I can confidently say I get more bears on camera in June than I do the other spring and summer months combined. I don't think they can responsibly add two more weeks of hunting in June unless a quota is put in place.

The proposal benefits outfitters though, so I'm sure the science will get ignored and the commission will pass it unanimously.
 
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As much as I like the thought of hunting bears until mid June, it seems like it would be hard on the resource, at least in region 4.

"Current harvest rates in the Snowies, Little Belts, and Crazy Mountains are not sustainable. Even in The Beartooths, where a female harvest quota is in place, we have documented a declining population. Increased harvest, especially female harvest, will accelerate these declines.

Black bears in the island mountain ranges of central Montana have one of the lowest reproductive rates of any large mammal in North America. Consequently, these populations are susceptible to over harvest and recovery from over harvest takes many years. For example, the bear population in BMU 520 was significantly over harvested in the mid-1980s and took 15 years to recover using very restrictive female harvest sub-quotas."

I know based on my own observations that hunting in June would be much easier. I run 20+ cameras in the island ranges in central MT and I can confidently say I get more bears on camera in June than I do the other spring and summer months combined. I don't think they can responsibly add two more weeks of hunting in June unless a quota is put in place.

The proposal benefits outfitters though, so I'm sure the science will get ignored and the commission will pass it unanimously.
Thanks for getting back on topic of the implications of this change.
 
FWP's 2024 overall analysis of black bear mortality patterns in BMU's 411, 420, 520, and 580:

"Following the 2020 Covid pandemic, interest in black bear hunting in central Montana increased substantially resulting in a dramatic increase in harvest across most of the area. Harvest in BMU 520 was somewhat controlled by the quota on female bears but overall harvest did increase to an unsustainable level. Consequently, the bear population in BMU 520 appears to be 25-30% below objective and continues to decline. Hunter harvest and overall mortality in the Snowy Mountain Complex appears to have exceeded the sustainable level between 2009 and 2020. Increased harvest since 2021 is likely driving the population to a level well below that which the habitat can sustain. While mortality levels in the Little Belt Complex were within allowable limits through 2020 recent upticks in hunter interest have likely driven the population to a lower level than the habitat is capable of sustaining. The same is true for the Crazy Mountain Complex.

Current harvest rates in the Snowies, Little Belts and Crazy Mountains are not sustainable. Even in The Beartooths, where a female harvest quota is in place, we have documented a declining population.

Increased harvest, especially female harvest, will accelerate these declines. Typically, female harvest rates increase over the course of the spring. In the Beartooths we see the rate of female harvest/day increase by approximately 50% between early May and late May. This trend certainly continues into the June period as we see in BMUs with extended spring seasons. Expanding the season into early June would disproportionately increase female harvest across a large landscape where the current level of female harvest is already unsustainable.

Black bears in the island mountain ranges of central Montana have one of the lowest reproductive rates of any large mammal in North America. Consequently, these populations are susceptible to over harvest and recovery from over harvest takes many years. For example, the bear population in BMU 520 was significantly over harvested in the mid-1980s and took 15 years to recover using very restrictive female harvest sub-quotas."

Extending the spring season to June 15th might be a good thing for region 1, but it sounds like it would have some very negative effects in the island ranges in region 4. I don't know how we can responsibly extend the season into mid June without putting a quota in place.

Deadline to comment on Cebull's amendment is January 31st. They aren't accepting comments through the commission page, comments on the amendment must be emailed to [email protected]
 
FWP's 2024 overall analysis of black bear mortality patterns in BMU's 411, 420, 520, and 580:

"Following the 2020 Covid pandemic, interest in black bear hunting in central Montana increased substantially resulting in a dramatic increase in harvest across most of the area. Harvest in BMU 520 was somewhat controlled by the quota on female bears but overall harvest did increase to an unsustainable level. Consequently, the bear population in BMU 520 appears to be 25-30% below objective and continues to decline. Hunter harvest and overall mortality in the Snowy Mountain Complex appears to have exceeded the sustainable level between 2009 and 2020. Increased harvest since 2021 is likely driving the population to a level well below that which the habitat can sustain. While mortality levels in the Little Belt Complex were within allowable limits through 2020 recent upticks in hunter interest have likely driven the population to a lower level than the habitat is capable of sustaining. The same is true for the Crazy Mountain Complex.

Current harvest rates in the Snowies, Little Belts and Crazy Mountains are not sustainable. Even in The Beartooths, where a female harvest quota is in place, we have documented a declining population.

Increased harvest, especially female harvest, will accelerate these declines. Typically, female harvest rates increase over the course of the spring. In the Beartooths we see the rate of female harvest/day increase by approximately 50% between early May and late May. This trend certainly continues into the June period as we see in BMUs with extended spring seasons. Expanding the season into early June would disproportionately increase female harvest across a large landscape where the current level of female harvest is already unsustainable.

Black bears in the island mountain ranges of central Montana have one of the lowest reproductive rates of any large mammal in North America. Consequently, these populations are susceptible to over harvest and recovery from over harvest takes many years. For example, the bear population in BMU 520 was significantly over harvested in the mid-1980s and took 15 years to recover using very restrictive female harvest sub-quotas."

Extending the spring season to June 15th might be a good thing for region 1, but it sounds like it would have some very negative effects in the island ranges in region 4. I don't know how we can responsibly extend the season into mid June without putting a quota in place.

Deadline to comment on Cebull's amendment is January 31st. They aren't accepting comments through the commission page, comments on the amendment must be emailed to [email protected]
Any thoughts as to why they didn't go with a quota in the island ranges? My buddy and I were planning a spring bear hunt and were looking at the Snowies, Little Belts, Crazies, and Beartooths. Given the research you have provided, I might be more inclined to change our spot as I would hate to see over-harvesting and I would fully support a quota system like they have in region 5.
 
Any thoughts as to why they didn't go with a quota in the island ranges? My buddy and I were planning a spring bear hunt and were looking at the Snowies, Little Belts, Crazies, and Beartooths. Given the research you have provided, I might be more inclined to change our spot as I would hate to see over-harvesting and I would fully support a quota system like they have in region 5.
This was proposed by the commission and not FWP. The current commission seems to generally lean towards opportunity over protecting the resource, at least when it comes to predators. I think FWP would have liked to see a quota implemented in the areas you mentioned.
 
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