In only the second year of the Southern West Virginia Black Bear Population Study, biologists have already made some interesting discoveries, according to Paul Johansen, Assistant Chief of the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources Wildlife Resources Section. The most recent finding involves a bear crossing three large mountainous counties, making it the longest journey ever recorded for a bear in West Virginia.
"Beginning in 1999, biologists started compiling data to investigate bear reproduction, survival, and mortality, as well as bear behavioral patterns and movements," Johansen said. "Information already collected has given us insight into these factors. But information collected on one of our bears concerning home range really surprised us."
In June of 1999, biologists tagged a young bear weighing approximately 80 pounds near Hico in Fayette County. The male bear received one of the first implanted, abdominal radio transmitters in West Virginia. He was monitored monthly by biologists. The bear spent the fall and winter of 1999 near Carnifex Ferry. The following spring, however, repeated aerial and ground checks failed to locate the bear. That was until December 23, 2000, when Vince Mastroguiseppe, a resident of Coalton in Randolph County, successfully harvested a bear on Rich Mountain near his home. The bear harvested by Mastroguiseppe turned out to be the missing bear. In 18 months, the bear had traveled more than 90 air miles and weighed a reported 300 pounds.
"Its not uncommon for bears to roam, especially juvenile males," Johansen said. "But no one would ever expect one to travel so far in such a short time. I am positive that as biologists continue to monitor the black bear population additional discoveries will be made. The type of information collected during this study will allow biologists to better manage our bear population."