KY Dept Fish wildlifeL WOODMUHLENBERG COUNTY, Ky. (8/9/13) – In a slight twist on an old saying, "If there's a bear in the woods but no one sees it, is it there?"
Well, according to Bill Lynch, of Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife Resources, unless you have a clear picture, or someone with the department sees it with their own eyes, it's only an assumed, non-verified sighting.
That said, it sure seems from the response of the public, the confirmed sighting of a bear right on the Central City limits area earlier this week, you might say, people with their own bear sightings have come out of the woods, with their own stories, from Bremen to Lake Malone.
For the few in Muhlenberg County who may not have heard the bear sighting, Wednesday morning, August 7th, Fitzhugh and Janet Rhoades, of Green Leas Estates, saw a small black bear within 30 feet of their backyard patio. Mr. Fitzhugh, a retired miner, grabbed his camera and the Department of Fish and Wildlife have told reporters it's the real thing.
Lynch said, "We did tests to see if the video had been doctored in any way and we now know it was the real thing."
The bear has not been seen since, but once the story got out, and state Fish and Wildlife authorities basically said the bear had likely wandered from its native stomping grounds in Eastern Kentucky, or even the Smokey Mountains, citizens from Muhlenberg County have come forward stating that there are more bears in the county than anyone had thought.
Although Fish and Wildlife officials still insist there is no significant bear population in Muhlenberg County, Facebook comments and phone calls to SurfKY News makes one wonder. In an area with many square miles of thick woods, caves, and abandoned underground mine shafts that would make a perfect habitat, officials may be a bit off on the population numbers.
One Facebook post stated: "They've been seen around the southern part of the county for a few years. You seldom hear of one being seen close to houses though. Most have been seen just in the edge of woods when they have been seen. But yeah...They've been around a while, just not many....Yet.”
To add credibility to that statement, Tony Flener of Greenville, says he saw a mother bear with a cub while hunting in the Lake Malone area.
Flener told Reporters that, "Last December I was hunting at Lake Malone on the Muhlenberg-Todd County line and I saw a black bear and a cub and I took a picture. When I took the picture I was only a hundred and fifty yards away. There was a big gorge between us so they didn't really respond to me. There have been several people in that area that have seen them. I did see some game wardens at Uncle Lee's right after that and reported it to them. They said they were aware of several people reportedly seeing a mother and cub in the Lake Malone area, but they didn't seem to pay it much mind."
"As far as sightings are concerned we have to be objective." Lynch said. "An eyewitness account by itself is not enough. If I report a sighting of a bald eagle or a bear, I best have a picture, a fur sample, or a fecal sample. Until then all I can report is what I think I saw. So that's something you have to keep in mind. If you tell me you saw a bear last hunting season, there's really nothing we can do about it. You have to be able to go out and collect the data. That said, yes, this is the first confirmed sighting of a bear in Muhlenberg County."
Lynch added "We do hope people will call if they see a bear. Don't feed it; don't try to interact with it. Also, hunters should remember, the Muhlenberg County area is not authorized bear hunting territory, so if someone shoots one, that's when law enforcement steps in."
SurfKY News will keep you updated on this issue as new details emerge.
Paul McRee
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