Georgia bear hunters are currently limited to killing one bear per season. If the Georgia legislature passes a bill currently being considered, DNR would have the option to raise the season bear limit to three.
The bear-limit legislation, HB 1000, is the only bill of significance on the radar of sportsmen this legislative session, according to Reggie Dickey, president of the Georgia Hunting and Fishing Federation (GHFF).
“Right now, there’s not much happening,” Reggie said. “Of course, that could change quickly, so we’ll be watching.”
HB 1000 was moved forward by the Game, Fish and Parks Committee, but it hasn’t moved out of the Rules Committee.
On Feb. 18, at about the halfway point of the 40-day legislative session, the Senate voted to adjourn for two weeks to work on budget issues. Meetings will continue at the capitol, but legislation won’t be considered until lawmakers return to regular business March 8.
As always, the WRD budget will be watched closely by sportsmen. Services to sportsmen and programs for wildlife have suffered greatly in Georgia from repeated budget cuts. This year could see more painful cuts.
Meanwhile, WRD biologist Adam Hammond, the state’s bear coordinator, said he welcomes the flexibility HB 1000 would give to manage Georgia’s bears.
Adam said if HB 1000 passes, “DNR will still maintain the ability to set the bag limit at less than three through the usual regulation process, but this change will make raising the bag limit possible. We welcome the opportunity to better manage our bear population, and having more flexibility in law may help us to do just that.”
Adam said the population trend for north Georgia bears is definitely on the rise.
“In north Georgia, we have set new harvest records for four of the last five and six of the last 10 years. Legal harvest in north Georgia this season was 418 bears, a full 33 percent increase over last year, which was the previous north Georgia record harvest of 314.”
Adam reports there are increasing numbers of road-killed bears (70 this year while the previous record was 39 in 2007), the worst summer on record for bear complaints, plus an increasing trend in bear-visitation rates to WRD bait-station survey locations.
“We believe that we have a very healthy, thriving and increasing bear population in north Georgia,” Adam said.