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Bears – the Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

The statewide archery season and the statewide firearms season for bears in Pennsylvania is now over however we still have the extended season for several days in late November that varies according to the wildlife management unit being hunted. With around 20,000 bears now roaming Pennsylvania’s woodlands your chances of success are pretty reasonable. While I do hunt bears in our state I’ve yet to take one in Pennsylvania; I’ve seen them on hunts but no decent shots were possible. My only successful bear hunt was a number of years ago when I was hunting alone in the mountains of Montana in a snowstorm when I saw a “brown” bear running towards me. Since I had about 40 pounds of fresh, raw, bloody elk meat strapped to my back I was a little concerned. When the bear got to within about 40 yards it apparently got a whiff of me as well as the elk meat and quickly turned broadside to bail out of there. It was then I realized it was actually a cinnamon phase of a black bear and I had a tag; I dropped the bear with one shot. The life size mount sits in my foyer.

The previous paragraph is an account of what’s “good” but what’s bad is to spend all day hunting in the rain and fog and not see a even a glimpse of a bear; I had that happen as well. It remains to be seen what the tally will be for successful Pennsylvania bear hunters this year but weather including snow, rain and fog will all be factors. Generally speaking, Pennsylvania hunters score very well with our state being one of the best in the lower 48 for taking a bear and especially a large bear. To be honest, if you want a chance at a really big bear-hunt right here in Pennsylvania.

Of course another bad side to bears is that they can get into things like bird feeders and garbage cans. I just cleaned the overturned garbage mess up a couple of weeks ago. Teeth marks in the garbage can lid told me who the culprit was. Some years back I was sleeping in a tent on the shores of a remote lake in Canada when a bear bit through the tent near my head-I quickly bailed out the front and I’m not sure if I unzipped the front door first-not good. A couple of weeks ago somebody showed me a video of a bear climbing up to his treestand while he was archery hunting for deer-not good; it eventually took off.

Well, we’ve had the good and the bad what about the ugly? I think it’s a bit of a stretch to place bears in the “cute” category but they certainly are an exciting and maybe even an awesome sight especially when it’s unexpected but sorry to say they can be downright ugly; yes I’m referring to their appearance. What I’m actually talking about here is their physical appearance due to the ravages of mange. A bear with mange can lose all or part of its fur covering exposing bare skin resulting in a down-right ugly looking critter. Mites spread mange; some animals infested with mites develop mange and others do not. In some animals the immune system kicks in and they recover-others do not.

Infested animals scratch themselves and the scratching causes lesions that can become contaminated with harmful bacteria. Diseased bears lose energy, slow down, eat less and eventually stop moving and die. Mange in Pennsylvania bears seems to be increasing and in 2017 seventy bears were euthanized or found dead as a result of mange. There may be a treatment however since scientists are attempting to treat the disease with a drug used to prevent heartworm in dogs. Unfortunately several treatments are required for dogs over three to four weeks and that cannot be done in the case of bears.

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