So far, Pa. bear harvest is lower

Potters Mills, Pa. – “Where are all of the bears?” was an
often-repeated question at the Centre County bear check
station. 

The usually busy Pennsyl-vania Game Commission employees and
volunteers spent more time drinking coffee and talking with hunters
than they did processing black bears. 

“The harvest is down, way down in this area,” said commission
wildlife habitat biologist Steven Repasky, who helped to process
most of the bears at the station. 

According to data supplied by Repasky, the Centre County station
processed fewer bears this year during its three-day operation than
any of the past 10 seasons.  Although that commission crew mainly
handles bears that were harvested in Centre and Mifflin counties,
their totals reflected what was happening all across the
state. 

Workers at most of the other 25 check stations noticed similar
drops in harvested bruins.

One only needed to look at the fog-enshrouded Tussey Mountain or
stand out in the rain and wet snow to know that weather was a big
factor during the first two days of the season. Even where it
wasn’t foggy, wet snow clinging to understory branches really
limited visibility. It is difficult to shoot a bear if you can’t
see it.

Shooting a bear in Pennsylvania continues to represent a
lifetime achievement for most hunters. 

Even though the harvest was down, the forests were filled with
many happy hunters, such as Doug Goss from Milroy, who harvested
his first bear. Goss was hunting in Havice Valley in Mifflin County
on the opening day when he spotted something black coming towards
him through the big rocks and hemlocks.  

He dropped the 188-pound bruin with one shot from his 300
Remington short magnum.

“The first-day harvest was down about 30 percent from recent
years,” said Mark Ternent, Game Commission bear biologist. “Wet
snow and a spotty acorn crop surely played a role in the
availability of bears and the success of hunters.” 

The preliminary figure for the three-day statewide harvest
stands at 2,004 bears, with an additional 23 bears harvested during
the Nov. 14-15 archery bear season. 

So far a harvest of 2,027 ranks as the 11th-largest harvest
ever.  However, Ternent noted that with the extended bear season in
certain wildlife management units continuing through Dec. 1, the
total preliminary harvest will increase and the season rank should
go up.

“With nice weather during the end of the first week of
concurrent bear and deer season it would not be out of line for the
2007 bear harvest to top 1997 (2,108), 1995 (2,188) and maybe even
1989 (2,213),” said commission press secretary Jerry Feaser. “That
would make this year the eighth-highest harvest ever.

Last year, hunters harvested 3,122 bears during all three
seasons, which is the second-highest harvest in Pennsylvania
history. The current record was set in 2005, when hunters harvested
4,164 bears in three seasons. 

“No matter how this year’s total turns out, it is really
difficult to follow 2005 and 2006, which were the biggest harvests
ever,” Feaser added.

The opening day harvest of 1,005 was down 35 percent from the
recent five-year average.  The harvest rebounded somewhat the
second day for a two-day total of 1,638 – down 30 percent from the
five-year average.

Feaser noted that while the total harvest is down, some counties
had average or above- average harvests. In Cameron County, for
example, hunters harvested 116 bears, as compared to 70 last
year. 

Bears were harvested in 49 of the state’s 67 counties, but the
bulk of the harvest, nearly half (941), occurred in the
northcentral region. This year’s top 10 counties include:

Clinton, 158; Lycoming, 123; Tioga, 118; Cameron, 116; McKean,
100; Potter, 100; Clearfield, 80; Somerset, 79; Warren, 71;
Huntingdon, 70.  

Ten bears were taken with estimated live weights exceeding 590
pounds. 

Rodney Howard, of Port Allegany, harvested the largest bear, a
male weighing 712 pounds (estimated live weight). The bear was
taken in Roulette Township, Potter County, at 2:30 p.m. on Nov.
19.

The second-heaviest bear was a 676-pound male taken by Albert
Smith, of Nazareth, in Greene Township, Pike County, at 3 p.m. on
Nov. 20.

As to whether this year’s lower harvest sets the stage for a
much bigger harvest next year or was a sign of an overharvest
during the past two seasons, no one within the commission is ready
to comment. 

“All the data isn’t in yet. When it is, our biologists will
analyze it before to determine how this year’s harvest affected the
population,” Feaser said.

The preliminary three-day bear harvest by wildlife management
unit was as follows: WMU 1A, 7 (12 in 2006); WMU 1B, 29 (37); WMU
2A, 1 (0); WMU 2C, 217 (253); WMU 2D, 91 (98); WMU 2E, 49 (97); WMU
2F, 223 (203); WMU 2G, 525 (680); WMU 3A, 177 (225); WMU 3B, 113
(208); WMU 3C, 49 (90); WMU 3D, 126 (120); WMU 4A, 98 (114); WMU
4B, 41 (32); WMU 4C, 54 (69); WMU 4D, 180 (281); and WMU 4E, 24
(34).

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