Pennsylvania sees fifth-best bear harvest

Pennsylvania bear hunters had quite the year in 2021.

They took 3,659 bears across last year’s various seasons. That ranks as the state’s fifth-best harvest ever, and the second-largest recorded since 2011.

The 2020 bear harvest, for comparison’s sake, was 3,621.

The statewide regular bear season accounted for the largest part of the 2021 bear harvest. Hunters took 1,315 bears in that four-day hunt.

The extended bear season – which last year for the first time allowed hunters to harvest bears throughout the opening weekend of deer season in some Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) – contributed 1,128 animals to the harvest. The archery bear season added another 680, while the muzzleloader/special firearms bear season harvest was 536.

Pennsylvania hunters recorded their all-time best bear season in 2019, when they harvested 4,653. That was the third time since 2005 that the harvest topped 4,000 animals. The others were 2011 (4,350) and 2005 (4,162).

That Pennsylvania continues to produce so many bears across so many seasons, year after year, speaks to the health of the state’s bear population, said Emily Carrollo, the Game Commission’s black bear biologist.

“Pennsylvania has a long history of supporting a lot of black bears, many of truly impressive size, across most of the state,” Carrollo said. “Best of all, the future continues to look bright for this resource, too.”

Hunters certainly appreciate the opportunity Pennsylvania bear hunting represents.

A total of 215,219 people – 205,812 of them state residents – bought bear licenses in 2021. That was down slightly from 220,471 in 2020, but still the second-highest number of bear licenses ever sold in any one year. Sales totaled 202,043 in 2019, 174,869 in 2018 and, going back further, 147,728 in 2009.

“Pennsylvania has been a popular bear hunting destination for years, and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon,” Carrollo said.

Harvest report

Bears were taken in 59 of 67 counties and 22 of Pennsylvania’s 23 Wildlife Management Units in the 2021 seasons.

The largest bear reported is the 722-pound male taken with a shotgun in the extended season, on Dec. 4, in Letterkenny Township in Franklin County, by Wade Glessner, of Shippensburg.

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 from the 2021 bear seasons, all but one taken with a rifle, include: a 681-pound male taken with a bow in archery season in Newport Township, Luzerne County, by Neil Minnich of Nanticoke; a 676-pound male taken in the regular statewide season in West Franklin Township, Armstrong County, by Paul Skanderson, of Freeport; a 649-pound make taken in the extended season in Spring Township, Snyder County, by Ashton McIlroy, of McClure; a 640-pound male taken in the regular season in Pike Township, Clearfield County, by Brandon Knee, of Houtzdale; a 640-pound male taken in the extended season in Gamble Township, Lycoming County, by Matthew Aikey, of Trout Run; a 615-pound male taken in the extended season in Penn Forest Township, Carbon County, by Ryan Hausman, of Jim Thorpe; a 614-pound male taken in the extended season in Lehmen Township, Pike County, by Matthew Romig, of Bethlehem; a 605-pound male taken in the regular season in Bradford Township, Clearfield County, by Storm Bumbarger, of Woodland; and a 602-pound male taken in the regular season in Beech Creek Township, Clinton County, by Jacob Rembold, of Lock Haven.

Lycoming County gave up 212 bears to rank first among counties for bear harvest. Potter County ranked second with 180, Pike County third with 167, Tioga County fourth with 166 and Clinton County fifth with 156. Rounding out the top 10 were Bradford County (136), Sullivan County (127), Wayne County (120), Centre County (118), and Huntingdon County (115).

Final county harvests by region (with 2020 figures in parentheses) are:

  • Northwest – 451 (475): Warren, 87 (86); Venango, 81 (84); Jefferson, 72 (76); Clarion, 60 (59); Forest, 44 (61); Butler, 43 (42); Crawford, 38 (43); Erie, 13 (18); and Mercer, 8 (4).
  • Southwest – 247 (260): Armstrong, 58 (56); Somerset, 58 (70); Fayette, 49 (43); Westmoreland, 41 (32); Cambria, 19 (24); Indiana, 12 (30); Allegheny, 7 (3); and Greene, 3 (2).
  • Northcentral – 1,220 (1,310): Lycoming, 212 (186); Potter, 180 (188); Tioga, 166 (185); Clinton, 156 (150); Centre, 118 (117); McKean, 107 (87); Clearfield, 94 (158); Elk, 80 (140); Cameron, 68 (61); and Union, 39 (38).
  • Southcentral – 464 (419): Huntingdon, 115 (91); Bedford, 82 (82); Mifflin, 55 (30); Fulton, 47 (51); Perry, 42 (36); Blair, 39 (29); Juniata, 36 (35); Franklin, 17 (31); Snyder, 12 (20); Adams, 10 (7); Cumberland, 8 (6); and York, 1 (0).
  • Northeast – 1,121 (988): Pike, 167 (105); Bradford, 136 (108); Sullivan, 127 (71); Wayne, 120 (100); Luzerne, 111 (125); Carbon, 103 (97); Monroe, 95 (152); Susquehanna, 77 (54); Wyoming, 66 (42); Lackawanna, 62 (56); Columbia, 36 (53); Northumberland, 16 (22); and Montour, 5 (3).
  • Southeast – 156 (169): Schuylkill, 61 (78); Dauphin, 54 (37); Northampton, 13 (23); Berks, 12 (15); Lebanon, 8 (9); Lehigh, 6 (7); and Bucks, 2 (0).
  • The final bear harvests by Wildlife Management Unit (with final 2020 figures in parentheses) were: WMU 1A, 26 (22); WMU 1B, 96 (121); WMU 2A, 5 (9); WMU 2B, 10 (6); WMU 2C, 192 (176); WMU 2D, 206 (191); WMU 2E, 45 (75); WMU 2F, 245 (277); WMU 2G, 519 (628); WMU 2H, 90 (141); WMU 3A, 238 (199); WMU 3B, 403 (273); WMU 3C, 218 (170); WMU 3D, 426 (409); WMU 4A, 173 (177); WMU 4B, 121 (113); WMU 4C, 224 (228); WMU 4D, 300 (236); WMU 4E, 97 (135); WMU 5A, 14 (13); WMU 5B, 1 (0); and WMU 5C, 10 (22).
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