Bear facts: Dutchess County is full of them!

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By Bill Conners • Outdoors columnist • May 22, 2008

Some hapless driver last week probably endured what surely had to be the scare of a lifetime. The driver didn't hang around for a photo-op or interview, but he or she probably would have had a story to tell if they had hung around.
The evidence of the incident was discovered on Salt Point Turnpike in Pleasant Valley. The carcass of a 250-pound black bear was discovered around dawn on Thursday. It made the ultimate sacrifice in a battle with a motor vehicle. It is not clear whether it was a truck or a car, according to everyone I've spoken to so far.

Matt Lawlor of Matt's Auto Body in Salt Point carted it off to a local taxidermist. It's far better to have the hide spend eternity as a rug or a wall hanging instead of allowing it to rot away in a landfill. Me? I'd probably get more of a kick out of the head staring down on dinner guests in the dining room. Lawlor didn't hit the bear; he just got the necessary permits to take possession of it.

In an unexpected postscript to the story, one of Lawlor's employees almost hit another bear on Friday morning. That incident happened within eyeball range of the first. I spoke to Matt Merchant, the Region 3 Big Game Biologist, about the bear. He said the estimated weight was 250 pounds and that it was a boar - that's what they call male bears.

The bear carried a tag in its ear. According to wildlife officials in Connecticut, the tag was placed there in 2006 when it was still a cub in its winter den. Before females have their next litter of cubs, they run the male cubs off. By the time that happens, they are able to fend for themselves. While they know how to scavenge for food, they don't necessarily know all the rules of the road ... like don't cross them without first looking both ways.

When I spoke to Merchant about the Pleasant Valley bear, he told me another one had been killed on Route 22 in Dover Plains just two days earlier. That one was a female - a sow, as they are called - of approximately 200 pounds. There was the possibility that she was still lactating; however, that has not been confirmed. No one has reported any wayward cubs in the area since the female was killed.

A word of caution: Bear cubs are cute, but they generally come with ugly mothers ... ugly not in appearance, but in demeanor. The last place you want to be is in between a sow bear and her cubs. Should a bear cub or cubs show up in your yard - whether in Dover Plains or the City of Poughkeepsie - give them wide berth. If a sow thinks her cubs are in danger, that normally passive animal may react in an extremely aggressive manner.

DEC wildlife officials will be holding public scoping sessions to discuss the growing bear population sometime this year on the east side of the Hudson River. Merchant said they hope to hold a session in Dutchess County during the summer.

New York has three bear ranges that help shape management plans. The Adirondack Range historically has produced the greater number of bears. The Allegany Range in the Southern Tier produces the fewest. The Catskill Range usually trails the Adirondacks, but lately not by much.

New York hunters harvested 796 bears in 2006. In 2007, it jumped to 1,117. The Catskill range seems to be expanding, with an increasing number of nuisance reports being generated on the east side of the Hudson River in recent years.

I am not at all bashful about my belief that it is time to expand the Catskill Range into Dutchess County. Waiting until the bear population is out of control would be foolish and not really a "management plan."

Dutchess County's 300,000 residents, I'm sure, would not mind sharing their 804 square miles with a few bears. I, for one, want however many there are setting up residence out in the timber ... not sipping pina coladas on my back deck.

Bill Conners of the Federation of Dutchess County Fish and Game Clubs writes on outdoors news, notes and issues every Thursday in Players. He can be reached via e-mail at [email protected], or by calling the Players Hot Line at 845-437-4848.

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