In December, a rumor reached GON that biologists with WRD were meeting to discuss the possibility of allowing dog hunting for bears in north Georgia. There was a bear meeting at Dawson Forest on Dec. 8, but the impetus for the meeting may have been the opposite of what the rumor suggested.
Region I Supervisor Chuck Waters said WRD is interested in stabilizing the bear population in north Georgia to keep it from growing. He pointed to the liberalization of bear regulations over the last few years as steps taken to increase bear harvest, but steered away from definitive statements on whether bear-dogging is being considered.
“(Bear-dogging) could be one of the tools in our toolbox, but so are bazookas,” he said.
Adam Hammond, WRD’s Bear Committee chairman, took part in the meeting between north Georgia bear biologists, and he would not rule out bear-dogging, either. He did, however, say the purpose of the meeting was to discuss bear management in general, not to propose any immediate changes.
“Dog hunting is something some states have had a lot of success with in managing bears. It’s certainly something we’re not going to take off the table. But it would be hard to do in north Georgia where the tradition of dog hunting isn’t there like it is in south Georgia.
“I think (bear-dogging) is always an option. At least I hope it is, because we might need it at some point. But that wasn’t the thrust of this meeting.”
Adam said most of the dog-hunting discussion at the meeting was geared toward revoking privileges rather than allowing dog hunting. He said there have been some issues between dog hunters and other hunters on national-forest land in northeast Georgia, where it is legal to train bear dogs but not to hunt bears with them.
“There are folks from North Carolina and Tennessee and in-state, too, who are training dogs, and we don’t even have a dog-bear season,” he said. “There was someone who was bitten by a dog, and deer hunters and turkey hunters are complaining.”
Chuck said if a proposal is made concerning dog training or dog hunting on national forests, it would have to go through the regulations process, which — on a two-year cycle — won’t happen until January 2011.