Hunters set new Pennsylvania bear-harvest record
Although numbers are continuing to come in, and bear hunting remains open through Saturday in some of the state’s Wildlife Management Units (WMUs), as of today, the 2019 preliminary bear harvest sat at 4,577.
The Commonwealth’s previous record bear harvest occurred in 2011, when hunters took 4,350 through a slate of bear seasons. Hunters also harvested 4,164 in 2005.
Expanded hunting opportunities provided by new special-firearms and muzzleloader bear seasons and an expanded archery bear season have helped push the 2019 bear harvest. Record bear license sales also have contributed: license sales currently exceed 200,000; previously they have held at highs between 170,000 and 175,000. And the statewide bear population at the start of the bear-hunting seasons was about 20,000 bears.
“Our goal was to offer more hunting opportunities and prevent Pennsylvania’s bear population from increasing,” noted Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “The response from hunters to the expanded seasons and the success they enjoyed afield were exciting to see.”
Black bears are thriving in Penn’s Woods today. But in a state with 12 million residents, concern about additional bear population gains compelled the Game Commission earlier this year to double the number of statewide bear-hunting days, creating the state’s lengthiest bear-hunting opportunity since the 1930s.
“It’s the largest suite of bear-season changes ever approved in a single year,” explained Matt Lovallo, agency Game Mammals Section supervisor. “In most of the state, we’re going from 14 or 16 days of bear hunting to 32, from three Saturdays to seven, and we started hunting bears almost two weeks earlier.”
The additional days and increased number of bear hunters appear to have made a significant difference. Great weather on peak hunting days also helped.
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. Bad weather negatively affected hunting conditions on key hunting days.
The largest bear through all 2019 seasons is the 813-pound male taken with a rifle on the opening day of the general season in Smithfield Township, Monroe County, by Victor M. Vassalluzzo, of Kintnersville.
The heaviest bear ever taken in Pennsylvania was an 875-pounder harvested in 2010 in Middle Smithfield Township, Pike County. Since 1992, seven black bears weighing at least 800 pounds have been lawfully harvested in Pennsylvania hunting seasons.
Other large bears taken in the 2019 bear general and extended bear seasons – all taken with a rifle – include: a 747-pound male taken in Wright Township, Luzerne County, by J. Kripp Jr., of Mountaintop; a 743-pound male taken in Greene Township, Pike County, by Matthew J. Erdie Jr., of Nazareth; a 696-pound male taken in Penn Forest Township, Carbon County, by Brian J. Borosh, of Jim Thorpe; a 661-pound male taken in Lake Township, Wayne County, by Michael A. Biduck II, of West Abington; a 658-pound male taken in Hopewell Township, Huntingdon County, by Michael A. Collins, of Altoona; a 657-pound male taken in Franklin Township, Columbia County, by Nicholas A. Podgurski, of Elysburg; a 656-pound male taken in Hanover Township, Luzerne County, by Dale J. Kobal, of Hunlock Creek; a 623-pound male taken in Beech Creek Township, Clinton County, by Mikael J. Catanese, of Sewickley; and a 620-pound male taken in Miles Township, Centre County, by Reuben Kennel, of Turbotville.
Bears were taken in 59 counties. Lycoming County led the state with 283, followed by Clinton County with 267 and Tioga County with 261.
The latest county preliminary harvest totals for all seasons are:
- Northwest (535): Warren, 142; Venango, 79; Forest, 66; Jefferson, 65; Clarion, 61; Crawford, 56; Butler, 44; Erie, 15; and Mercer, 7.
- Southwest (342): Somerset, 123; Fayette, 61; Armstrong, 56; Indiana, 42; Cambria, 29; Westmoreland, 28; Allegheny, 2; and Greene, 1.
- Northcentral (1,588): Lycoming, 283; Clinton, 267; Tioga, 261; Potter 173; Centre, 144; McKean, 125; Clearfield, 103; Elk, 100; Cameron, 78; and Union, 54.
- Southcentral (718): Huntingdon, 177; Bedford, 148; Fulton, 80; Perry, 67; Mifflin, 54; Franklin, 47; Juniata, 42; Blair, 40; Cumberland, 27; Snyder, 24; Adams, 11; and York, 1.
- Northeast (1,214): Luzerne, 161; Pike, 161; Monroe, 130; Wayne, 130; Bradford, 125; Carbon, 87; Sullivan, 85; Susquehanna,82; Wyoming, 82; Lackawanna, 75; Columbia, 64; Northumberland, 25; and Montour, 7.
- Southeast (179): Schuylkill, 75; Dauphin, 66; Northampton, 15; Lebanon, 2; Berks, 17; and Lehigh, 4.
The latest preliminary bear harvests by Wildlife Management Unit are: WMU 1A, 20; WMU 1B, 156; WMU 2A, 11; WMU 2B, 2; WMU 2C, 285; WMU 2D, 184; WMU 2E, 82; WMU 2F, 338; WMU 2G, 710; WMU 2H, 110; WMU 3A, 260; WMU 3B, 424; WMU 3C, 223; WMU 3D, 488;WMU 4A, 303; WMU 4B, 191; WMU 4C, 248; WMU 4D, 367; WMU 4E, 135; WMU 5A, 25; WMU 5B, 1; and WMU 5C, 13.
Final bear harvest numbers will be provided in early 2020 after biologists confirm and crosscheck harvest records. For now, it’s clear hunters have set a record bear harvest, a direct result of increasing opportunity in 2019. It’s news the Game Commission preferred to share as soon as possible.