Harrisburg, PA -(AmmoLand.com)- It was a large harvest, and a heavy one. Pennsylvania hunters harvested a total of 3,748 bears in 2015, the third-highest tally in state history, the Pennsylvania Game Commission reported today. And a whopping 68 of those bears topped the 500-pound mark. The harvest total represents an increase compared to 2014, when . . .
3,371 bears were taken.
With 2015 total now official, the eight largest bear harvests all have occurred in the past decade. The all-time high was recorded in 2011, when 4,350 bears were harvested. Hunters harvested 4,164 in 2005 and 3,510 bears in 2013.
Hunters in 2015 harvested bears in 57 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, an increase compared to 2014, when bears were taken in 56 counties. Bears were taken in 20 of the state’s 23 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs), and each of the Game Commission’s six regions saw a larger harvest in 2015 compared to the previous year.
The 68 bears harvested weighing 500 pounds or more represents a sharp increase from 2014, when 41 bears taken by hunters reached or exceeded the 500-pound mark.
And 18 bears in the 2015 harvest topped 600 pounds.
Two bears tied for heaviest in the harvest, each weighing an estimated 713 pounds. The first was taken on the Nov. 21 statewide opener in Blair Township, Blair County, by Richard A. Watt, of Gallitzin, Pa. The second was taken Nov. 23 in Granville Township, Mifflin County, by Gregory A. Wilson, of Lewistown.
Lycoming County, perennially among the top counties for bear harvests again led the way with 312 harvests in 2014, up from 286 the previous year. Among other top counties for bear harvests in 2015 were: Clinton, 265 (179 in 2014); Tioga 196 (275); Pike 180 (111); and Centre, 162 (117).
The four-day general season again set the pace for the overall harvest, with 2,724 bears being taken during that season. But the extended seasons and the archery bear season also contributed to the totals.
Statewide, 803 bears were harvested in extended seasons while 209 were taken during the archery bear season.
Pike County claimed the highest harvest in extended seasons, with 56 bears taken after the close of the general statewide bear season. Other top counties, and their harvest totals during the extended seasons, were: Wayne, 52; Tioga, 51; Lycoming, 50; Luzerne, 49; and Bradford, 46.
The Game Commission handled and tagged more than 900 bears statewide in Pennsylvania last year, and the percentage of those bears harvested by hunters suggests the state’s bear population grew between 2014 and 2015, said agency bear biologist Mark Ternent.
The state’s bear population had held stable at about 18,000 from 2008 to 2014.
But in 2014, harsh weather greeted bear hunters in much of the state during the general bear season opener, and this fact likely contributes to the bear population bumping to an estimated 20,000 animals, Ternent said. The last time the population bumped after several years of a stable population trend, it also did so after a year after harsh weather during bear season, Ternent said.
A record number of bear licenses – 175,314 – were sold in 2015, as well, continuing a trend of an increasing number of bear hunters.
Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough said the growing interest in bear hunting isn’t surprising given the recent string of top harvests, and the future for bear hunting looks as bright as ever.
“It might sound like a broken record, but, truly, there has never been a better time to hunt bears in Pennsylvania,” Hough said. “Each year, another top harvest is added to the record books, and the largest one yet very possibly might be around the corner.”
What a decade for bear hunting
The 2015 Pennsylvania bear harvest, the third-largest in state history, joined other recent seasons near the top of the record books. With the totals now official, the eight of the top 10 harvests all have occurred in the last decade. Here’s a look:
Top Pennsylvania bear harvests:
- 4,350 – 2011
- 4,164 – 2005
- 3,748 – 2015
- 3,623 – 2012
- 3,512 – 2009
- 3,510 – 2013
- 3,458 – 2008
- 3,366 – 2014
About Pennsylvania Game Commission:
For more than 100 years, the Game Commission has managed the Commonwealth’s wildlife resources for all Pennsylvanians. With the help of more than 700 full-time employees and thousands of part-timers and volunteers, the agency provides a host of benefits to wildlife, state residents and visitors.
For more information, visit: www.pgc.state.pa.us.