THE END OF BEARS HAS BEEN WITH US BEFORE AND CAN EASILY RETURN
SOME PREDICT THE END OF ALL LARGE MAMMALS IN THE WILD BY 2050
This article is copied directly from the Department of the Interior's web site offering some overview bout Shenandoah.
. . . Nature’s Calling!
Just 75 miles from the bustle of Washington, D.C., Shenandoah National Park is your escape to recreation and re-creation. Cascading waterfalls, spectacular vistas, quiet wooded hollows—take a hike, a meander along Skyline Drive, or a picnic with the family. 200,000 acres of protected lands are haven to deer, songbirds, the night sky…and you. Plan a Shenandoah escape today . . . !
. . . Black bears are the only species of bear found in Shenandoah National Park. While there were probably once as many as two million black bears in North America before European colonization, the population declined to a low of 200,000 as a result of habitat destruction and hunting. By the early 1900s, bear populations were nearly eliminated from lands that are now within the park. On the eastern side of the Blue Ridge, the last bear was reported in Albemarle County in 1910. Bear populations persisted however in the Allegheny Mountains to the west, the descendents of which are the most likely source of the current park population.
Two bears were reported within the newly established park in 1937 and by 1944 the estimated bear population within the park was ten individuals. By the early 1950s, bear sightings were reported from all three districts with an obvious concentration in the South District. Through the protection offered by the park, the bear population gradually increased through the 1950s to an estimated 75 individuals park wide. Since the 1960s, much of the park's hardwood forest has reached mast producing age. Intensive agricultural practices on lands adjacent to the park have increased the availability of high starch foods preferred by bears including apples, peaches, grapes, corn and honey. The mosaic of agricultural lands, woodlots and stream corridors surrounding the park created nearly ideal conditions for the bear population to expand and disperse.
Better management and changing ecological conditions have resulted in increases in bear numbers throughout their geographic range. By current estimates, more than 900,000 are living today on the continent with 5,000 to 6,000 of those in Virginia.We believe that the bear population within the park ranges from the low to high hundreds depending on the availability and distribution of natural forage, particularly mast crops, the degree of annual recruitment and mortality within the population and, seasonal influences such as breeding cycles, juvenile dispersal and hunting pressure from adjacent lands.. . .poaching, or illegal killing, is also a threat to black bears in Virginia. In some parts of the world, bear gall bladders and paws are believed to have traditional medicinal value, and this has led to a lucrative market in these items - a market which ultimatley increases poaching of bears. The Convention of International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES), a treaty among more than 120 nations, provides measures to curb illegal trade in wildlife and wildlife products across international boundaries, help to protect the black bear from poaching.