Black Bear Tooth Collection
Become a NYS Bear Management Cooperator
If you Report Your Bear Harvest and Submit a Tooth from your bear, you will Receive a NYS Black Bear Management Cooperator Patch.
Report Your Bear Harvest
Your reported information allows DEC biologists to better monitor populations, make management decisions, and evaluate the impacts of bear harvests. Reporting your bear harvest is required by law.
Reasons to Submit a Tooth
DEC collects biological data from harvested bears to determine bear condition, sex and age. Part of this effort includes the collection of a small tooth (premolar) located behind the larger canines which is used to determine the age of the bear. In many cases, DEC staff cannot physically check every bear, so hunter cooperation by submitting a tooth from their bear is an important contribution to bear management. This information is useful to annually assess the impact of harvest on the bear population by determination of the average age of harvested male and female bears in the various bear hunting areas. Additionally, by recording age and sex of harvested bears over a period of years, biologists can more accurately model bear populations. The DEC is asking for your help by sending in the premolar tooth from all harvested bears.
After you report your bear harvest, DEC will either contact you to examine the bear or will send you a tooth collection packet. If you take your bear to a taxidermist, check with the taxidermist to confirm whether your bear tooth will be sent in to DEC. Many taxidermists are DEC bear management cooperators and will submit the tooth samples for you. Removal of the premolar tooth will not affect your mounted bear, as the original skull is not typically used in bear mounts.
If you or your taxidermist submits a tooth from your bear, DEC will send you a letter in the late summer informing you of the bear's age.
Did You Know?
The oldest harvested black bear on record in New York was 42 years old and was taken in the Adirondacks.
Extracting the Premolar
DEC is primarily interested in receiving the premolar tooth, and to ensure a usable sample, sending two premolars is better than only sending one. If you are unable to pull a premolar, the jaw can be cut or submitted whole. If there are both large and small premolars, remove the largest ones.
Premolars generally come out of the jaw easily with a small flat awl, screwdriver, or a locking knife blade (be careful). First, cut the gum around the tooth. Then lift the tooth out gently by undercutting the premolar, using the curve of the canine tooth to guide your tool. The age can only be determined by the root of the tooth, so be careful not to break the root as you extract the tooth.
Please do not attempt to boil, bleach, or preserve samples, as this can jeopardize the quality of the tooth layers. However, please remove any flesh attached to the tooth.
Place the tooth or teeth into the small yellow envelopes provided in the collection packet and label these with your name and the DOC # from your bear carcass tag. Please mail the sample to DEC in the postage-paid return envelope provided.