Kentucky Fish and Wildlife workers are joined by a UK Dept. of Forestry grad student on a "bear hunt." But they’re not roaming the hills of McCreary County to kill or capture bears…rather to count them.
“We’re trying to get a population estimate..figure out how many bears are down here,” said Sean Murphy, a member of the “black bear project,” and a UK grad student.
In recent years black bears have been showing up in areas not seen in recent history. And on Thursday….one was caught…and then sedated by Ky. Dept of Fish and Wildlife workers.
The female black bear, weighing more than 100 lbs., was caught in the Big South Fork National Recreation area, just a few miles from the Tennessee line.
Once caught, bears are measured and fitted with a radio collar, so they can be tracked.
“So we can go in and get a cub count in the winter,” said Murphy.
Bears are also being counted with a “hair snare”, a barbed wire device that’s wrapped around a tree trunk to collect hair samples, to determine where the bears are coming from. Bears found in McCreary County have the same genes as bears in the Smoky Mountains. Bears recently found in eastern Kentucky carry genes similar to those in Virginia or North Carolina.
Everything is used to figure out just how many bears there are in southern Kentucky…because…
“A black bear is somewhat indicative of a quality habitat, good food sources, and good cover,” said Murphy.