This post is about a cub bear that I found in our chicken coop in August 2020. An illegal radio-tracking collar was on the bear. Trying to get the collar off, the cub had gotten its right leg through the collar and was unable to pull it out. This further tightened the collar such that it was cutting through the bears neck with resultant open wound. 

West Virginia has a 365-year season when hunters can train their dogs on live bears (just not kill them except during hunting season. Thus these “sportsmen” (ha) chase bears in spring and summer, often scattering cubs from parents. In this case, the hunter captured a cub and put on a radio-collar to readily locate it whenever he wanted to easily find a bear for his dogs to chase.
This year-round training season needs to be abolished!

The enclosed pictures are of a young bear that had entered into our chicken coop in August, 2020. I shot it at the urging of a WVDNR game warden who otherwise would have to do it himself. Several nights earlier a then-unknown predator had broken the outside of our coop enough to get in and eat two of our hens. At the time I was puzzled as it did not seem the work of a fox or raccoon. This time our dog was barking, it was mid-afternoon, and the chicken entrance was open. When I saw a small bear inside the henhouse, I first wondered how it could get through a small door one foot wide and two feet tall? 

Here’s why? The bear, likely a two-year cub earlier sent off by its mother, was very emaciated. A radio collar was around the bear’s neck….and its right leg had slipped through the collar! Most likely the person who had illegally captured the cub had fitted it with a radio collar to track its whereabouts. Fitted too loosely, the bear had pawed at the irritating collar and had inadvertently pushed its leg through into the collar where it was stuck. 

Severely handicapped by the crippling collar, the bear was struggling to forage in a normal way. Facing imminent starvation, it had encroached upon our chicken coop. 

The collar, now overtightened from the leg, had cut through the skin into an open wound infested with maggots. Clearly the bear was in misery soon to die from starvation and the infected and infested wound. 

The game warden, son of a long-time friend, arrived following our phone call and picked up the bear to take away. He said the radio collar was not one that an authorized wildlife researcher would use. Yet he could not trace it. 

My wife and I were incredibly sad. If the invader bear had been normal, we would have shooshed it out and on its way. We were also angry that some unknown hunter had decided to trap this cub and follow its whereabouts through an illegal collar device. 

So how did this hunter capture a bear cub? West Virginia is one of several states that permit a hunting method called hounding. Bear dogs are trained to get on the scent of a bear and chase it until the exhausted bear either turns on the dogs to fight them or climbs a tree to escape the pack. The dogs are equipped with radio collars so the hunters can locate the pack, find the treed bear, and shoot it. 

Hounds in Wisconsin tear into a bear cub.

These bear-hound states allow a training season, usually in late summer, for the dogs to practice chasing bears, typically several hours and many miles. Bear cubs are often separated from their mothers during such chases. During training season, it is against the law for a hunter to kill a bear.  

West Virginia differs from other hounding states with an all-year, 365-day bear hound training season. In other words, bears can be dog-chased for training or (in season) killing year-round. It is likely that during such a “training” chase, a hunter had captured a treed cub, radio-collared it, and set it loose in order to locate it later to continue to train his hounds.