Black Bear Hunting in Alaska
Why should you be concerned?
Harvests of black bears in the Fairbanks area (Subunit 20B) have increased in recent years. If overharvest becomes a problem black bear seasons and bag limits may be restricted in the future. But if hunters are selective it should not be necessary to do so. Hunting over bait allows hunters to be very selective. Baiting can provide you with opportunities to select for bear size or absence of cubs.
Black bears reproduce at a very low rate. Most female black bears in the Fairbanks area do not produce their first litter until they are six years old, and then they only produce an average of two or three cubs every three years. So, killing a female bear has a much greater impact on the population than killing a male bear. In 1991, hunters killed 163 black bears in Subunit 20B, 56 of which were females. If harvests continue to increase, particularly of female bears, we will have to reduce the bear season and/or restrict baiting opportunities.
What can you do to help?
- Select large/adult male black bears.
- Be patient! Often many different bears will visit a single bait station. Adult males have larger home ranges and may take longer to find your bait. Females have smaller home ranges and may visit bait more often.
- Avoid killing sows with cubs. Don’t shoot the moment you see a black bear! It is illegal to shoot sows with cubs. A sow with cubs frequently approachs bait without her cubs; she may stash cubs in a nearby tree while she enters the bait area.
- Leave evidence of sex attached to your bear hide until sealing is complete. We look for evidence of sex on hides during sealing. You are required to leave the penis sheath or vaginal oriface on the hide until we seal the bear.
Black bears can look deceptively large. We recommend that you place a marked stake at your bait station to gauge the size of bears you see. Large adult male bears tend to be taller than 33 inches when standing on all 4 feet. Adult males have larger home ranges and may take longer to find your bait. Females have smaller home ranges and may visit bait more often.
Although it is legal to shoot a marked bear, we prefer that you do not shoot these bears because they provide us with valuable information about how frequently sows have cubs, what age the cubs disperse, and home ranges size. With patience, baiting can help maintain healthy bear populations and will provide you the opportunity to take a fine, trophy class Alaskan black bear.
Tips For Selecting Large Male Bears
Large/Adult Male Bears
- Stocky legs
- Massive body with belly that hangs closer to ground
- Approach bait with more confidence
- Slower, more deliberate movements
- Large, rounded head (like basketball)
- Ears look smaller
- Thicker neck
- Large males taller than 33" at the shoulder
- Ears to nose an equilateral triangle
- Appear to be "all legs"
- Approach bait nervously, frequently looking over shoulder or turning around
- More streamlined, pointed head
- Ears look larger and closer together
- Neck appears longer and thinner
- Females and younger bears shorter than 33"at the shoulder
- Ears to nose a skinny triangle