As part of a long-term, multi-state study of Southern Appalachian black bears, WRD staff surveyed over 40 routes in north Georgia in July. Biologists and Technicians have been setting up these bait stations for black bears annually or biannually every summer since 1983.
The bait stations consist of string and partially opened sardine cans, and are placed out of reach from other animals. After five nights, the number of stations visited by bears is recorded, and these results, in combination with annual harvest reports, nuisance complaints and other data, help to interpret bear population trends over time.
In the first year, 1983, only 12 percent of the stations were visited by bears. Since then, the population has steadily grown and in 2009, 76 percent visitation was recorded along these same exact routes.
In one recently completed survey on the Stanley Gap Trail within the Chattahoochee National Forest, just north of Rich Mountain Wildlife Management Area (which straddles Fannin and Gilmer counties) claw and teeth marks indicated that bears visited four out of the seven stations along the five-mile trail.
This is very typical and supports other indicators that Georgia has a healthy bear population. The survey results are also a good sign for hunters planning on participating in the upcoming bear season in north Georgia. Be sure to purchase all appropriate hunting license and thoroughly review the bear hunting regulations in the state before you get out there and take advantage of the season!
Note: Special thanks to Wildlife Biologist Adam Hammond (Wildlife Resources Division: Region I) for contributing to this story.