Year of the big bearRecord-setting bruin bagged in September in Greenville Junction
Augusta — State history was made the weekend of Sept. 8-9 when a black bear tipping the scales at 699 pounds was taken by a Pennsylvanian hunter. The size of the animal broke a nearly 20-year record.
The bear was shot near Greenville Junction by Matt Knox of Waynesboro, Pa., who visited Maine for his first bear hunt. Knox was guided by Steve Monroe of Grand Slam Guide Service, headquartered in Shirley.
Knox’s bear beat the previous record-holder, a 680-pounder, taken in 1993.
After biologists from the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife predicted a good season for bear hunters, it also appeared to be a season where larger bears were seen more frequently.
While this year’s drought and lack of berry and nut crops meant a low food resource for bears, the animals were able to forage and gain weight because of strong food resources in previous years, including last year.
“Despite a very poor natural food year this year, last year we had an exceptionally productive natural food crop of berries, apples, acorns, beechnuts and more followed by nearly a decade of good natural food crops that left bears in excellent condition, especially adult males,” said Jennifer Vashon, IFW biologist. “The influence of this year’s drought and poor berry and nut crops is that these mature adult male bears are going to take more risks at bait sites this year and thus are more vulnerable to harvest.”
Thus, 2012 will go down in the record books as one of the best years to hunt bear in Maine, said some of the outdoor guides, who saw record bear numbers and record-sized bear to boot.
With Maine seeing a new state record bear of 699 pounds this year, as well as many others in the 600- and 500-pound weight class, the optimism is well founded. Don Kleiner of the Maine Professional Guides Association, who lives in Union, said “this makes Maine look like one of the best bear states around — it’s just a real good year.”
Not since 1993 has Maine experienced a year like this for hunting bear. In addition to setting the record of 680 pounds that year, two of the top 10 bears in New Hampshire were taken that year as well.
This year’s state record bear — 699 lbs. — was harvested by Knox, who said he was stunned at the bear’s massive size. He was expecting something in the 300-pound range.
"That is a once-in-a-lifetime bear,” said Knox, an Army veteran who served in Iraq.
“I was ecstatic,” said Monroe, who guided Matt and placed him in the stand. The bear was 82 inches in length (6 feet 8 inches standing) and 82 inches in girth — in other words, he was as tall as he was wide.
Monroe said the Maine woods likely will give up more big bear. He knows of several of more than 400 pounds.
But why? Why are there more big bear this year than ever before?
Bear biologist Randy Cross has the answer. “It is counterintuitive to say the bears are fat because the food resource is particularly low this year,” said Cross. “But previous years have been good, so this year they’re willing to take more chances prior to going to their dens.”
Whatever the reason, Maine produced black bear this year as never before.
Bears were hunted with dogs until Oct. 26 and were trapped until Oct. 31.
Doug Rafferty, director of public information and education for the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, provided information for this story.
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