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“Bear stamp” causing some confusion among bruin hunters.

By Jefferson Weaver
Staff Writer

North Carolina’s new bear stamp will never be sought after like its waterfowling cousin – because the stamp only exists in cyberspace.

The bear E-stamp is an endorsement on hunting licenses, and required for hunting bears in North Carolina this year for the first time. The $10 E-stamp isn’t a traditional stamp like those sold for waterfowl hunters, but the data it will help provide is just as vital.

The E-stamp will help the Wildlife Resources Commission identify bear hunters, according to Russell Wong, spokesman for the commission. The E-stamp serves a number of purposes, including helping the state’s ongoing black bear research.

“ It’s actually more than a bear research project,” Wong said. “The e-stamp is necessary to identify bear hunters to help the Wildlife Commission collect data from bear hunters to manage the black bear population.”

Columbus County’s bear season opens Dec. 2. Bag limit is one, and possession is one. Cubs under 50 pounds and mothers with dependent young may not be harvested.

The state’s bear population has exploded in recent years, with interactions between bears and humans on the rise in almost every county. For the past decade, hunters have complained about bears raiding corn piles set out to attract deer in Columbus County. The state has loosened some rules regarding taking of bears near bait piles, but Brunswick, Columbus and Robeson counties all still have the shortest season in the east, ending Dec. 20.

The E-stamp will help fund efforts to better determine how large and viable the black bear population is across the state, and if hunting opportunities can be expanded in future seasons.

“Information from the e-stamp may help determine future seasons and bag limits,” Wong said, “but nothing is immediately on the table from e-stamp funds.  We need to collect data first.”

Wong said the current nature of the data will be extremely important.

“It is important that bear hunters only obtain the e-stamp if they plan to hunt bear this season,” he said.
Each hunter who receives an e-stamp will also receive a packet of information that explains the Black Bear Cooperator program, provides information on submitting a bear tooth, etc. Revenue generated from e-stamp sales will support black bear management. More information is available at: http://www.ncwildlife.org/Licensing/HuntingFishingTrappingLicenses/BearManagementEStamp.aspx

The state already requires registering harvested bears – the same as with deer and wild turkeys – but teams of biologists are traveling the state this year asking hunters to voluntarily provide additional data on their trophies.

“Hunters can assist by participating in the Commission’s effort to collect pre-molars from harvested black bears in North Carolina,” Wong said. “The data from these teeth help us age bears and assess the overall black bear population’s status in the state, including strength of age classes of bears.”
The state has created YouTube video about removing pre-molars from harvested bears to help hunters who do it themselves. The web address is  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u0drOehtmbA&feature=youtu.be
Post-mortem dentistry isn’t required for Tar Heel bears, as it is in some states.
“While it helps the Wildlife Commission to get these pre-molars from harvested bears,” Wong said, “we ask hunters to assist us in this data-collection effort voluntarily.”
Wildlife commission biologists have been hitting areas with heavy bear hunting in recent weeks, and recorded several bears over 600 pounds in Hyde county. The bear project will also be highlighted on a future edition of Jim and Eva Shockey’s hunting television program, “Shockey’s Hunting Adventures.” The father-daughter team volunteered to participate in the study after a recent hunt in northeastern North Carolina.

The bear E-Stamp is in addition to conventional hunting licenses, and is available at point-of-sale dealers as well as online at www.ncwildlife.org.