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Bear Business: If They're Here, Bears Came On Own, State Says

This article first appeared in issue 9, and was written by Ed Waggener.

If the Kentucky Department of Wildlife Resources can't prove there are bears in Adair County, maybe Columbia! mag-azine's Blue Ribbon Bear Board can. The first in an important series starts on page 4, today.

If there are bears in Adair County, they weren't turned loose by the state. They were brought in by someone else or migrated here on their own, Kentucky Department of Wildlife Resources biologist Brian Gray, Campbellsville, says that in his area, the highest number of bear sightings reported do come from Adair County, But so far, he says, "We have not confirmed a bear sighting in Adair." Gray's territory includes Adair, Casey, Cumberland, Green, Marion, and Taylor Counties

Many times, he says, the Wildlife Department is able to invalidate a bear sighting. Such was the case of a road kill here which was later identified as a big black chow.

And it happened in the case of the Doberman pinscher in the south of Adair whose owner insisted it had been mauled by a bear. When Gray investigated he talked to the Doberman's veterinarian, who performed the autopsy. The vet concluded, "A bear may have killed the dog, but if one did, he was carrying a .12 gauge shotgun!"

In fact, Gray says that no bear sightings have been confirmed in his area. But his colleague in Richmond, Becky Littleton, has. "We had a bear killed on a roadway in Harlan County just four months ago," she said. Littleton is the person one gets when one asks Wildlife in Frankfort for "Your bear department."

Bears are interstate travelers, Ms. Littleton says. They are mostly in the border counties of Pike and Bell, and thin out westward. "There are a lot of reports from Laurel and Pulaski," she said, but these are rarely confirmed. As with most of Adair's sightings they are generally from second and third parties.

Bears have been released in Kentucky only in the Big South Fork area in Mc Creary County, Littleton said. Indeed, Martha Bell, the wife of Bear Board Member Pat Bell is sure that a black bear disturbed their camper on their most recent camping trip a few days ago in McCreary County.

Therein might lie the answer to Adair County's bears, if they are here.

Mama bears average two cubs, but may have from one to five in a litter. For girl bears, home is home forever. But little boy bears become unwelcome guests as yearlings. Then the mama bears run them off.

These yearling boy bears seek new territory, and, in some cases for McCreary County bears, that might be west, toward Adair County, This is because established daddy bears would be in control of territory to the east. One could easily imagine an ambitious young bear migrating from McCreary County through Wayne County, passing up Clinton and Cumberland to homestead in the Bear Paradise: Highway 704 westward to Bennett Ridge and the Dean Woods in Adair County. Perhaps the process would take two or three bear generations to open the new frontier. But it is possible.

In any case, Brian Gray says that black bears might not be such bad neighbors. Folks should just give them ground.

Their diet is 85% vegetarian, with the balance being made up of insects, fish, scavenged flesh, and very small animals, the biologists say. They will get into poorly contained garbage, they add. And they warn, "Don't feed the bears."

"Generally, black bears won't attack humans or pets unless they are cornered," Gray says.

Gray wants first party bear sightings be reported to him at 502-465-5287.

For those who want Bear Board involvement, contact a member or call Columbia! at 502-384-3603.

This story was posted on 1996-11-15 12:01:01
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