Hunter Tips: Sharing Habitat with Bears in the Fall

Release Date: 10/08/2010

The Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) reminds hunters that bears are actively foraging at this time of year in preparation for the winter. Louisiana black bear populations throughout the state are growing and their ranges are expanding, as noted in record numbers of trail camera photos capturing activity at deer feeders.

Hunters can still enjoy a safe hunting experience and have success harvesting game species by following a few, simple recommendations.

TO MINIMIZE ATTRACTING BEARS:

  • Plant food plots instead of distributing feeding corn, a favorite bear food item. For those hunters who prefer to use feed, it is advisable to switch to soybeans. The switch from corn to soybeans may be enough to drastically decrease the number of bears returning to a site.
  • Hang your feeder out of reach of bears. A feeder should be at least 8 feet off of the ground and 4 feet away from the tree or pole used to suspend the feeder.
  • Bears are less likely to forage for one grain at a time, as dispersed on the ground from a timed feeder. A corn pile or trough type feeder is more likely to attract bears for repeat feedings.

HOW TO HANDLE BLACK BEAR ENCOUNTERS

It is important for hunters to educate themselves about bears and bear behavior, take the proper precautions and remain aware while in the woods. Younger hunters should be coached on how to respond to a bear’s presence and provided with bear spray and taught how to use it.

  • Black bears are extremely inquisitive and will sometimes follow a hunter’s track to the deer stand. It is not uncommon for a black bear to place his front feet on the ladder and peer up into the stand in an attempt to discover what’s there. This situation can usually be resolved by standing and moving about on the stand and speaking to the bear to allow him to see and hear you. Once their curiosity is satisfied, bears will usually move on.
  • A hunter moving through thick brush will occasionally come upon a black bear nest. Females readily nest on the ground and produce cubs. This occurs during the den season (late December through April). Ground nests are most often located in slash piles, felled tree tops, blackberry thickets and thick palmetto. This type of encounter will usually cause the female to run away from her nest. The cubs will bawl loudly in protest at being abandoned, but this vocalization will bring the female back quickly as soon as you leave the area.
  • If you encounter a black bear in the woods, detour around the bear. If necessary, go back the way you came and access your intended destination from another direction.
  • If you encounter a black bear at close range, raise your hands above your head to appear larger than you are, speak in a normal voice to allow the bear to identify you as human, and back away until it is safe to turn and walk away -- DO NOT RUN.
  • The best tip for insuring hunter safety and peace of mind is to carry bear spray. It is available at some retail outlets selling camping and hunting merchandise, and via the Internet. Be sure to buy a product labeled “bear spray”; most come with a convenient belt holster.
  • If a black bear attacks, DO NOT PLAY DEAD; that is a technique used for grizzly bears. Fight back with anything available, as black bear attacks have often times been stopped when the person fought back violently.

Hunters are also reminded that feral hogs and black bears can look very similar, especially in low light conditions. It is critical to know your target before pulling the trigger. Killing a Louisiana black bear can result in fines and/or jail time, as well as hindering LDWF’s progress toward delisting the black bear.

The goal of LDWF’s black bear program is to restore bear numbers to a sustainable level that will allow a regulated legal harvest of bears in the future.

For more information, contact Maria Davidson at 225-931-3061 or mdavidson@wlf.la.gov.