As hunters head out into the New Hampshire woods today for the first day of bear season, they may have a harder time finding their quarry. Not only is there a new ban on using chocolate as bait, but it’s been a good year for natural bear sustenance.
Last year, bear hunters took 784 bears, up 20 percent from the year before. This year, Fish and Game Bear Biologist Andy Timmins says the number will likely be lower, as there’s a bumper crop of acorns, beech nuts and berries out in the woods.
“When there’s a lot of food in the woods, bears are harder to patter, harder to find, they don’t travel as far, so generally in better food years we see a decrease in harvest,” says Timmins.
This is also the first year of a new ban on using chocolate as bear-bait. Hunters will still be allowed to bait using chocolate pastries and donuts, but the ban becomes absolute in 2016. “So 90 percent ban this year, 100 percent ban next year,” explains Timmins.
The ban was put in place after four bears died at a baiting site in the town of Stark last year. A necropsy done at the University of New Hampshire found high levels of theobromine – a toxin found in chocolate – in the bears blood and digestive track.
Bear season ends at different times in different parts of the state, but all regions finish in late November.