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Outlook for bears is bullish

The announcement of deer harvest numbers will take a while, but warmer weather in Northeastern states allowed for increased bear sightings and some respectable returns -- in states where bear-hunting seasons remained open.

As expected, that New Jersey bear hunt, set for a Dec. 4 start, was canceled. After the governor and game commissioner's suspension of the scheduled annual hunt, a court decision upheld that suspension.

Things went much better for bear hunters in Maryland, Pennsylvania and New York State.

Maryland officials ended the hunt after just two days; required immediate harvest reports of 41 indicated another day of hunting may have exceeded their biologists-set quota of 55 statewide.

Final numbers for Pennsylvania bruin harvests are in, including the regular season (Nov. 20-22) and extended seasons that ended Dec. 2. The hunt saw Warren County, south of Jamestown, tying last year's leading numbers for the Northwest Region with 78 bears reported in the regular season and a total harvest that put this season second behind only the record season of 2005.
Hunters this season came close to last year's record number of 3,331 with preliminary harvest reports set at 3,099, a count well within five-year average reports.

Warm weather after the Nov. 25 start of the New York State bear season should up the take for Southern Tier hunters in the Allegany range, which includes much of Western New York.

So far, in Region 9, hunters reported taking 27 in Allegany County, 22 in Cattaraugus County, and 10 in Chautauqua County. Last year's total for the entire Allegany range was 119, and hunters can continue taking bears along with deer on their hunts where bear hunting is allowed.

The shotgun/rifle season ends at sunset today, but muzzleloader and archery big-game seasons continue to Dec. 19.

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Deer takes

Big bucks dominate deer reports this season. Harvests appear to be edging above last year's take, said DEC senior wildlife biologist Tim Spierto. Older, big-racked beasts keep showing up along edges of farm fields and near deer camps throughout Western New York.

Lancaster resident Mark Wilkowski hunted with dad, Ron, and brother Scott along with friend Mike Szematowicz of Blasdell at the Wilkowski family camp in Friendship.

Mark made his mark at 10 a.m. on opening day (Nov. 18) with a 5-plus-year-old eight-pointer to his credit. The buck green scored at 154 with an outside rack spread of 23 inches.

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Tally watchers

The Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology holds its Tenth Annual Great Backyard Bird Count (GBBC) with tally dates set for Feb. 16-19.

Beginners to expert birdwatchers can identify and count numbers of as many species possible and then report them on the GBBC Web site. Viewers can see results of other contributors as tallies are entered on the site.

Last year, more than 60,000 counters reported 7.5 million birds and 623 species.

To learn more about this "Count for the record," go to: www.birdsource.org/gbbc.

e-mail: willodrs@gmail.com

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