Eastern Wildlife Damage Control Conferences


Date of this Version

November 1995


Black bear (Ursus americanus) depredation in agriculture has become an increasing concern in Massachusetts. Complaints from apiarists, corn growers, and livestock producers have increased 167% during the period 1980 to 1990, but whether this increase truly represents more depredation, response of bears to other factors, or simply better reporting/record keeping has not been determined. The bear population in Massachusetts from 1984 to 1989 increased 50°/a to approximately 700-750 animals statewide. Subsequent estimates (1995) have placed the bear population around 1,200 animals. Concurrent encroachment of human development into prime bear habitat also increased contact between bears and humans. During years when natural foods (primarily hard and soft mast) are limited, bears search for alternate foods in nearby agricultural and suburban areas and may damage hives, crops, or livestock. All these factors enhance the potential for conflicts that could jeopardize human-bear co-existence.