Reports on the effectiveness of using late fall hunting seasons to reduce the proportion of female black bears (Ursus americanus) in the harvest are limited, and the geographic scale over which the technique functions as intended has not been examined. During 1992-2000, we radio-equipped black bears in New Mexico, USA, obtained estimates of 175 den entry and 137 den emergence dates, and used New Mexico Department of Game and Fish harvest data (1985-2000) to test for differences in proportion of females in the harvest relative to denning chronology. Bears in northern New Mexico entered dens earlier and emerged later than bears in southern New Mexico (P ??? 0.001). In northern New Mexico bears displayed the typical pattern of earlier entry and later emergence by reproductive females, proportion of females in the harvest varied over time as expected, and late fall seasons were effective (P ??? 0.10). In contrast, denning chronology did not differ by sex in southern New Mexico, proportion of females in the harvest did not change over time, and late fall seasons were not effective (P ??? 0.18). Manipulation of hunting season dates to influence female mortality can be an effective tool, however our study provides an example of an area where denning chronology did not differ by sex and late seasons were not effective. We also observed regional differences in timing of entrance and emergence, which suggest that scale of application may be key. In management jurisdictions that encompass ecologically distinct areas, cover a wide range of latitudes, or are mountainous, successful use of the technique may depend on knowledge of denning chronology at multiple locations and appropriate designation of hunting unit boundaries, season dates, and data analysis units.
Additional publication details
Denning chronology and design of effective bear management units