One of the proposals will delist the Mount Mitchell Bear Sanctuary and reopen it to black bear hunting. The primary reason cited is an increase in nuisance bears and negative bear interactions with humans.
“It’s primarily bears around homes, getting into trash cans and birdfeeders and dog food,” said Mark Jones, black bear specialist with the Wildlife Commission. “There are some big-time problems in that area. The bear population has exceeded the human tolerance levels.”
Jones said some of the problem bears are a result of more people building their homes on mountainsides black bears also call home. But the main reason is an increase in the bear population.
“There are probably more black bears now than any time in modern history,” Jones said.
The sanctuary program was started in the 1970s to address a declining black bear population. The Wildlife Commission has credited the sanctuary system with returning a rebound in the black bear population.
There are an estimated 4,000 black bears in WNC and another 7,000 in eastern North Carolina.
Jones said there is still plenty of protected land for black bears in WNC: some 262,000 acres of black bear sanctuary designated by the Wildlife Commission and another 500,000 acres of protected public lands ranging from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park to town watersheds.
The N.C. Wildlife Commission plans to allow hunting of coyote at night using red or amber lights due to an increase in complaints about coyote problems. Night hunting of coyotes with lights will not be allowed during deer season, however.
“There is a growing concern among landowners and farmers regarding damage by coyotes. Livestock producers have requested more options for coyote hunting, particularly night hunting,” the Wildlife Commission stated in the proposal.
The new hunting regulations would allow skunk hunting anytime of year with no limit on how many a hunter can take.
“Striped skunks continue to increase in numbers and distribution across the state and have been of little value as a furbearer for many years. This change would simplify options for landowners and others who think striped skunks are a nuisance,” according to the Wildlife Commission.
Another proposal would step up response to fears of chronic wasting disease, a deadly contagious virus for members of the deer family. Chronic wasting disease started out in Western United States and has spread to 12 states, turning up as close to home as West Virginia in fall 2005. The Wildlife Commission banned transport of the deer family across state lines three years ago to reduce chances of the disease being introduced in North Carolina’s deer population.
Now, they have proposed a ban on importing certain deer, elk and moose parts, which would affect the many WNC hunters who hunt in South Carolina, Georgia or Tennessee. Hunters will not be able to bring dear heads back into the state as the virus lives in the spinal column and brain tissue. Deer skulls, antlers and hides can have no meat or tissue attached.
Hunters will have to butcher their deer before bringing it back into the state, deboning and wrapping it. No meat can have part of the spinal column attached.