SHERIDAN — The Wyoming Game and Fish Commission is looking for feedback on proposed changes to black bear hunting season guidelines for 2017.
Wyoming Game and Fish large carnivore biologist Dan Bjornlie explained the proposed changes at a public meeting Wednesday night. For the first time, returning hunters may register the same bait sites they’ve used in past years through the department’s website. He said that first-time applicants still must register in person or by a representative of the applicant starting April 1, following the preference period.
Another proposed change is requiring hunters to provide GPS coordinates to each registered bait site within seven days of registering the site. Failure to do so, or failure to place bait at a registered bait site, will result in the loss of preference to the bait site when registering for the following calendar year. That hunter will be considered a first-time applicant to that bait site.
As newly defined in the proposed changes, the GPS coordinates given must be able to direct WGFD personnel to within 50 yards of the registered bait site. South Cody Game Warden Craig Smith explained that the GPS coordinates are in addition to previous regulations and will help officials check for compliance as well as help keep sites spread out. Additionally, total bait sites for a licensed outfitter during a calendar year will be capped at 20.
Changes made to definitions included removing “cub” to define bear young and replacing it with “dependent young.” Instead of it only including bears less than 1 year old, as the definition of cub did, dependent young is defined as, “any cub of the year or yearling black bear traveling with an adult female black bear.” Dependent young and female black bears with dependent young remain off limits to hunters.
The definition changes also include specific definitions for GPS coordinates and chemical attractant, which Bjornlie said is still not considered a bait and therefore can be used in all black bear hunting areas.
Sheridan Wildlife Management Coordinator Lynn Jahnke explained the process of extracting teeth to determine age. He said that in past years this process has found that most bears killed are young. He said that since black bears usually don’t start reproducing until they’re about 5 years old, which is late compared to other bears, he’d like to see older female bears be hunted to allow younger ones to reproduce.
The proposed changes will go before the Wyoming Game and Fish Commission in January 2017. The WGFD encourages the public to leave comments in regards to the changes, and individuals may do so through the department website until Dec. 12 at 5 p.m.