The first north Georgia bear hunt where dogs were allowed to track bears turned out to be a successful venture but it is still to early to know what kind of impact it will have on the total bear harvest this year.
Georgia’s lead bear biologist Adam Hammond confirmed that 61 black bears were taken during the nine-day special hunt on the Chattahoochee and Chestatee management areas in White and Lumpkin counties.
One of the goals of the Department of Natural Resources is to stabilize the growth of the north Georgia bear population or even slightly decrease the bear population.
A four-day open bear hunt will take place on the Cohutta Wildlife Management area from Oct. 10-13. Dogs will not be allowed on the Cohutta hunt.
Hammond said that 15 parties of up to ten hunters were selected for the Chattahoochee and Chestatee hunts, however only 11 actually checked in.
“It was interesting to see how it would work out,” Hammond said. “I’m not so much interested in the fact that 61 bears were killed on this nine-day hunt, but how will it impact our total harvest. Will our harvest actually go up?”
While it will be several months before the full impact data is developed, Hammond said since this is the first year of a two-year regulatory cycle that there will be another dog hunt next year.
“If this is truly an additive harvest, in other words if our harvest goes up as a result of this nine-day hunt, it (dogs) could be a tool we can use to manage bears,” Hammond said. “I was pleasantly surprised that there were no issues to speak of.”
His staff had previously tagged and fitted nine bears with tracking collars in those two management areas.
Of those, one was taken during an archery hunt prior to the special dog hunt. Two of the bears had moved out of the wildlife management areas before the hunt began. Three others may have been pushed out of the area by the dogs during the hunts. Two were actually harvested and one bear apparently avoided the dogs and hunters altogether.
The four-day Cohutta hunt, spread across portions of Murray, Fannin and Gilmer counties, opens Thursday and continues through Sunday. It has historically been a high harvest hunt as well. Hammond said one year alone, 67 bears were taken from the Cohutta area during the four-day open hunting period.
“It’s not uncommon at all to have at least 40 bears taken during that hunt,” Hammond said.