Black Bear Capital of Kentucky
A peaceful small town situated in a vividly picturesque valley in the far reaches of southeast Kentucky…this is a perfect description for the town of Cumberland. Located in Harlan County, there is certainly no shortage of attractions to see and enjoy in Cumberland and the surrounding areas of Benham and Lynch.
Kingdom Come State Park is one such attraction, that includes an impressive array of attributes such as Log Rock, a natural sandstone bridge, Raven Rock, a giant rock monolith over 290 ft. high, some of the most spectacular and breathtaking scenic overlooks anywhere in Kentucky, and provides a perfect natural habitat for the black bear that have chosen to reside there.
The black bear is once again an exciting feature to the Cumberland area and many people visit the park anxiously hoping to catch a glimpse of the magnificent animal. There has certainly been an increase in visitor traffic with the return of the bear.
In the last year there has been a tremendous rise in the number of bear sightings at Kingdom Come State Park alone. There were more than 30 new bear trapped, tagged, and released by the Kentucky Department of Fish and Wildlife. The largest bears ever recorded in the state were found here. According to Rick Fuller, Park Manager of Kingdom Come State Park, the reason for trapping them is to collect scientific bear data such as weight, size measurements, blood samples, hair samples, and pulling a tooth. All of this data collected is entered into a database in order to provide a more extensive information pool about the bear including age, health, size and population.
Fuller says that black bear were always native to Kentucky and were very common the state in the past, probably even more common than deer. He contributes the major decline of the bear population to have occurred around the turn of the century because of trappers, hunters, and loss of habitat due to timbering. The bear never did leave completely because there have continuously been reports of sightings at mine sites on Black Mountain. All of eastern Kentucky is experiencing an increase in the bear population with the most being in this area.
With the return of the black bear comes the need to regard certain safety measures in order to peaceably cohabitate. Although black bears are generally not aggressive, they can be dangerous if certain rules of safety are not observed. Kentucky Fish and Wildlife has printed a wonderful brochure to help educate individuals about black bears; their history, their biology & behavior, their value, and safety measures to follow. This brochure can be viewed on KY Fish and Wildlife’s web site at www.kdfwr.state.ky.us by clicking the “education” link on the main page or request a copy by calling 800-858-1549.