Pennsylvania produces many old bears
Each fall, Pennsylvania hunters harvest some amazingly large black bears. Considering that even a 500-pound black bear is considered huge, so far this season, check stations have processed two bears over 700 pounds and at least a dozen additional bears have topped 600 pounds!
It is also interesting to note that the 10 heaviest bears harvested so far this season each came from eight different counties – Indiana, Monroe, Wayne, Clinton, Potter, Lycoming, Pike and Columbia. Only Potter and Wayne counties were represented twice.
Although the heaviest-bear data is made public in news releases each fall and winter, another piece of information rarely sees the light of day – the age of some of these bears.
Each year, well after the season is over, the Pennsylvania Game posts the bear age data that it calculated from a tooth that is pulled from each bear at a check station. I am always amazed at the large number of bears that are harvested that make it to over 10 years of age. They are usually female bears, but not always. Females are given a little survival advantage during hunting season, because pregnant females tend to den earlier.
I’ll share the 2015 bear age data from just a few counties surrounding where I live in Centre County. You can easily locate the other counties’ data.
The Blair County 2015 age data shows four double-digit bears – females of 12, 12 and 14 years, and a 12-year-old male that field dressed at 640 pounds. Huntingdon, with its larger harvest, sported five bears that were over 10 years of age – sows of 10, 11, 15 and 15 years. An 11-year-old boar, weighing 520-pounds, dressed, also showed up in the Huntingdon County harvest.
Centre County had a 19-year-old male that had a field-dressed weight of 427 pounds. Nine other bears broke the 10-year barrier – six females and three males. Bedford and Clearfield counties had eight bears over 10 years old and each county had a 19-year-old sow. Two older bears were harvested in Cambria County – a 10- and a 13-year-old – both females.
Clinton County, with 199 black bears, is the number one bear-harvest county so far this year, but it tends to produce younger bears. Looking at last year’s age data, only two Clinton County bears were 10 or more years old. A 10-year-old female had a field-dressed weight of 237 pounds and another sow aged 12 years that weighed 207 pounds.
You might enjoy checking out the bear age data for the county that you live or hunt in. Just visit www.pgc.pa.gov and click on “Black Bear Age Harvest Data” under “Quick Clicks” on the left side of the agency’s home page. Data is listed by region and then by county within each of the six regions.