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Howard Hanna


Howard Hanna


Saturday, February 9, 2019


One of these years, Pennsylvania is going to break the 4,000-bear barrier for a third time in annual black bear harvests.

There was hope it would in 2018 with a bear population estimated at 20,000 and a fine start to the November firearms season. But unfavorable weather conditions dashed those hopes.

The 2018 bear harvest came in at 3,153 bears, 11th-best all-time, but also the lowest bear harvest in the past 11 years.

“I thought Pennsylvania was capable of producing a 4,000-bear harvest the past two years,” explained Mark Ternent, Game Commission bear biologist. “But we’ve had some bad breaks with weather events during our bear seasons the past two years.

“With better hunting conditions, I do believe hunters would have taken another 1,000 bears in each of the past two seasons,” he said.

A season-by-season breakdown shows hunters took 2,017 bears (1,862 in 2017) in the general firearms season, 699 (1,083) in the extended season, 424 (493) in the archery season, and 12 in the early season.

A rainy bear firearms opener hamstrung the 2017 harvest by hundreds of bears. The same thing happened on the 2018 extended bear season opener, which also is the opening day of firearms deer season.

Opening-day harvests are typically responsible for 50 to 60 percent of the bear harvest during that particular season segment. When weather interferes, the season’s take suffers.

Seventy bears weighing 500 pounds or more, including 20 weighing 600 pounds or more, were part of the 2018 harvest.

Bears were taken in 60 counties and 22 of Pennsylvania’s 23 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs).

Even with new bear-hunting opportunities – including an earlier bear archery season that overlapped with a week of the archery deer season and expanded extended bear seasons – the bear harvest failed to reach management objectives.

That unfulfilled harvest potential has generated interest to further increase bear-hunting opportunities. Proposals to expand the mid-October muzzleloader and special firearms deer seasons to include bears statewide; increase to two weeks the length of the statewide archery bear season and shifting it to the two weeks following the muzzleloader and special firearms bear seasons; and expanding four-day extended bear seasons to six days in most WMUs in the 2019-20 bears seasons could be adopted at the April Board of Game Commissioners meeting.

Pennsylvania’s all-time bear harvest high was recorded in 2011, when 4,350 bears were harvested. Hunters harvested 4,164 in 2005. All other bear harvests have been under 4,000.

While the 2018 harvest was down compared to 2017’s harvest of 3,438, harvest totals increased within the Game Commission’s Northcentral and Northeast regions.

The largest bear harvested in 2018 weighed an estimated 780 pounds. It was taken with a rifle in Howe Township, Forest County, on the second day of the general bear season in WMU 2F by Michael J. Rubeo, of Mercer.

A day later, a 708-pound male was taken by Timothy J. Weaver, of Dallas, Pa., with a rifle in Harvey’s Lake Borough, Luzerne County.

Other large bears taken during the state’s slate of bear seasons – all but one taken with a rifle – include: a 704-pound male taken Nov. 17 in Goshen Township, Clearfield County, by Mickey L. Moore, of Clearfield; a 697-pound male taken Nov. 19 in Chapman Township, Clinton County, by Scott Yorty, of Bloomsburg; a 688-pound male taken in the extended season in Stroud Township, Monroe County, by Phillip R. Counterman, of East Stroudsburg; a 681-pounder taken Nov. 17 in Coal Township, Northumberland County, by Robert L. Britton III, of Coal Township; a 680-pounder taken Nov. 19 in Chest Township, Clearfield County, by Douglas D. Routch, of Curwensville; a 679-pound male taken with a handgun Nov. 17 in Farmington Township, Warren County, by Jordan Tutmaher, of Warren; a 666-pound male taken Nov. 20 in Snyder Township, Jefferson County, by Earl F. Timothy, of Brockway; and a 627-pound male taken Nov. 19 in Snyder Township, Jefferson County, by Wayne C. Kline, of Reynoldsville.

Tioga County finished with 166 bears to take the top county bear harvest. It was followed by Lycoming County with 159. Other top counties for bear harvests in 2018 were: Clinton, 158; Huntingdon, 142; Potter, 109; Luzerne, 105; Pike, 104; and Monroe, 103.

Final county harvests by region (with 2017 figures in parentheses) are:

Northwest – 517 (388): Venango, 96 (61); Crawford, 79 (40); Jefferson, 79 (55); Warren, 72 (109); Forest, 70 (35); Clarion, 52 (51); Erie, 29 (13); Butler, 26 (18); Mercer, 13 (6); and Lawrence, 1 (0).

Southwest – 261 (237): Somerset, 85 (75); Fayette, 58 (66); Indiana, 34 (11); Armstrong, 33 (36); Westmoreland, 26 (26); Cambria, 21 (21); Allegheny, 2 (1); Beaver, 1 (0); and Greene, 1 (1).

Northcentral – 989 (1,187): Tioga, 166 (214); Lycoming, 159 (252); Clinton, 158 (153); Potter 109 (161); Centre, 87 (93); Clearfield, 87 (66); Cameron, 67 (52); McKean, 67 (86); Elk, 54 (72); and Union, 35 (38).

Southcentral – 474 (383): Huntingdon, 142 (91); Bedford, 80 (57); Fulton, 58 (29); Blair, 44 (27); Juniata, 34 (41); Perry, 31 (44); Mifflin, 29 (43); Franklin, 26 (24); Cumberland, 12 (8); Adams, 7 (6); Snyder, 7 (13); and York, 4 (0).

Northeast – 775 (1,112): Pike, 104 (193); Luzerne, 105 (108); Monroe, 103 (82); Bradford, 96 (112); Wayne, 70 (156); Carbon, 60 (57); Sullivan, 53 (156); Susquehanna, 46 (66); Wyoming, 40 (70); Lackawanna, 34 (65); Columbia, 38 (29); Northumberland, 24 (16); and Montour, 2 (2).

Southeast – 137 (131): Schuylkill, 50 (47); Dauphin, 48 (49); Northampton, 17 (19); Lebanon, 10 (8); Berks, 8 (7); and Lehigh, 4 (1).

The final bear harvests by Wildlife Management Unit (with final 2016 figures in parentheses) were: WMU 1A, 23 (17); WMU 1B, 161 (103); WMU 2A, 7 (3) WMU 2B, 4 (4); WMU 2C, 193 (207); WMU 2D, 155 (131); WMU 2E, 75 (39); WMU 2F, 259 (232); WMU 2G, 422 (474); WMU 2H, 73 (87); WMU 3A, 222 (213); WMU 3B, 223 (457); WMU 3C, 134 (262); WMU 3D, 323 (417); WMU 4A, 218 (96); WMU 4B, 114 (130); WMU 4C, 168 (157); WMU 4D, 252 (296); WMU 4E, 105 (94); WMU 5A, 8 (7); WMU 5B, 4 (1); and WMU 5C, 10 (11).

While the overall harvest was down in 2017 and 2018, primarily because of weather events, those light harvests could lead to excellent bear hunting this fall, Ternent said. Prior to the start of the 2017 and 2018 hunting seasons, the statewide bear population was estimated at 20,000. It’s still appears to be holding strong.

Lower-than-expected bear harvests the past two years still produced a combined bear harvest of more than 6,500 bears, including more than a hundred 500-pounders, said Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. Just 40 years ago, the agency had closed bear season to protect the resource.

“Just 40 years removed from a time when the Game Commission was closing bear season to safeguard the resource, Pennsylvania has become one of North America’s premier black-bear destinations,” emphasized Burhans. “You probably would have to go back in time more than 100 years to find bear hunting comparable to what Penn’s Woods offers today!”


Anonymous said...

First misstep was opening it on a Saturday. Put it back to the Monday opener. One bad Saturday results in fewer bears taken, next day is a no hunting day. Hunters can't hunt the next day and some no longer stick around until Monday.

Anonymous said...

the increase in black bear activity around populated residences within communities is getting to be a huge problem as well . its no doubt the black bear is an amazing animal to watch roaming around it is also a huge problem to the general population from a safety and nuisance standpoint . i for one hope there is a huge harvest on them in the upcoming season

Anonymous said...

Lets eradicate them like the deer herd