ALBANY New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Pete Grannis today announced proposed changes that will open new areas in the Southern Zone to black bear hunting beginning in fall 2008. DEC is proposing to expand the bear hunting seasons to 13 additional Wildlife Management Units (WMUs), which include parts of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Erie, Wyoming, Genesee, Monroe, Livingston, Wayne, Ontario, Seneca, Yates, Steuben, Schuyler, Tompkins, Tioga, Cortland, Broome, Chenango, Madison, Onondaga, Oneida, and Otsego counties. "The proposal to open new areas to bear hunting in the Southern bear range is part of our continuing effort to better manage bear populations and provide excellent hunting opportunities in New York State," Commissioner Grannis said. "Expanding the bear hunting area is a proactive strategy to slow the expansion of black bear range and population and reduce conflicts between black bears and people before those conflicts reach unacceptable levels." Black bears have been thriving in New York, with a current population of approximately 6,000-7,000 - a number that has grown significantly in recent years. The majority (4,000-5,000) can be found in the Adirondack region, with the remainder of the population mostly in the Allegany (300-500) and Catskill (1,500-2,000) regions. In recent years, bears have expanded their range considerably, which has led to a growing number of interactions between bears and people, including some serious conflicts where bears have entered homes or cabins. In the fall and winter of 2007-2008, DEC held a series of public meetings throughout upstate New York to provide an overview of the natural history and current status of black bears, including the recent range expansions, and to seek public input on future bear management efforts. Attendees at these meetings expressed interest in maintaining a healthy bear population and, where bears have a noticeable presence, supported management actions like expanded hunting opportunities to help control bear numbers and problems. The specific changes proposed for the Southern bear range would: Open WMUs 7M, 7R, 7S, 8H, 8J, 8M, 8N, 8P, 8R, 8S, 9G and 9H to black bear hunting for the archery, regular and muzzleloading seasons. This would include parts of Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Erie, Wyoming, Genesee, Monroe, Livingston, Wayne, Ontario, Seneca, Yates, Steuben, Schuyler, Tompkins, Tioga, Cortland, Broome,Chenango, Madison, Onondaga, and Oneida counties. Season dates for these units will be the same as those in place for adjacent units already open to bear hunting in the Allegany bear range. Open WMU 4N to black bear hunting for the archery, regular and muzzleloading seasons. This includes parts of Chenango and Otsego counties. The season dates for this unit will be the same as adjacent areas to the east (the firearms season for bear is the same as the firearms season for deer) in the Catskill bear range. A map of DEC's Wildlife Management Unit locations can be found at www.dec.ny.gov/outdoor/8302.html. To see more detailed descriptions of the proposal, including instructions for providing comments, it will soon be posted on the DEC website. Go to the DEC's home page - www.dec.ny.gov - and select "Proposed Regulations" from the left column. The proposed rulemaking can also be viewed in detail in the June 25, 2008 publication of the New York State Register, which will be posted at www.dos.state.ny.us/info/register/2008.htm. DEC will be accepting public comments on the proposals until August 9, 2008. To send written comments on the proposals, go to www.dec.ny.gov and select "Proposed Regulations" from the left column, or mail to: Gordon Batcheller, NYSDEC, Bureau of Wildlife, 625 Broadway, Albany, NY 12233-4754. DEC will also be hosting several public meetings to discuss the proposed regulation changes. The following meetings are scheduled, please see attachment below. Bear hunting is the only viable and cost-effective tool for managing bear numbers on a regional basis. Providing bear hunting opportunities in the proposed units is intended as a continuation of efforts to manage population growth and range expansion. This is an important first step in an effort to slow or stop growth into areas where the probability of conflict between bears and human interests is highest. Opening new areas to hunting will not eliminate bears or prevent all human/bear interactions, and as such, DEC remains committed to continuing educational outreach to increase the public's awareness of bears and inform the public on techniques to avoid conflicts with bears. The recently-produced "Living with New York Black Bears" DVD is available to the public for loan at local libraries and DEC wildlife offices, in addition to information being made available on DEC's website at www.dec.ny.gov/animals/6960.html and recent public meetings.