Some bear hunters in Virginia, primarily houndsmen, feed American black bears (Ursus americanus) to attract them to hunting sites, but also because some hunters believe that supplemental food improves bear reproduction and survival. However, a regulation prohibiting unauthorized feeding of bears, deer (Odocoileus virginianus), and turkey (Meleagris gallopavo) on national forest and state-owned lands in Virginia became effective 1 July 1999. We sent a survey to all members of the Virginia Bear Hunters Association (VBHA) (n = 459) to determine the amount of food provided to bears by hunters between 1 July 1998 and 30 June 1999. Survey response rate was 52%. One hundred thirteen of 238 (48%) survey respondents spent $18,378 on supplemental food during that time. One hundred twenty-eight respondents provided 2,942,394 kilograms of food to bears between 1 July 1998 and 30 June 1999. Whole-shelled corn, pastries, and rendered animal fat (grease) accounted for 58% of the total mass; however, whole-shelled corn, pastries, and bread were the 3 most common foods offered. July, August, and September were the months during which most respondents fed bears. Food supply can affect reproduction, survival, harvest rates, nuisance occurrences, population size, and distribution of bears. If supplemental feeding has an effect on bear population dynamics, changes in regulations regarding feeding may negatively impact black bear populations, as well as public relations and future cooperation between wildlife agencies and hunters.
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Vol. 15 • No. 2