HARRISBURG, PA - Pennsylvania hunters took 4,653 black bears this past fall, setting a new state record bear harvest.
In 2018, the bear harvest was 3,153, 11th best all-time, but also the lowest bear harvest in the past 11 years. So, the overall bear harvest increased by a third from 2018 to 2019. With a statewide bear population of about 20,000 bears over the past several years, it was a harvest increase sought by the Game Commission, which had employed the largest suite of bear-season changes ever approved in a single license year.
Pennsylvania’s previous top bear seasons occurred in 2011, when 4,350 bears were harvested, and in 2005, when 4,164 were taken.
In recent years, bad breaks with weather, particularly on opening days, when hunter participation is typically at its highest, have kept the bear harvest down.
But in the four years prior to 2019, hunters still took more than 13,850 bears, which exemplifies the bear population’s resiliency to remain around 20,000.
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.
Local county harvests by region (with 2018 figures in parentheses) are:
Northwest – 557 (517): Warren, 146 (72); Venango, 80 (96); Forest, 69 (70); Crawford, 65 (79); Jefferson, 65 (79); Clarion, 65 (52); Butler, 44 (26); Erie, 16 (29); Mercer, 7 (13); and Lawrence, 0 (1). Southwest – Armstrong, 58 (33)
Despite the size of Pennsylvania’s bear harvest, it’s still within a harvest range in which the Game Commission is comfortable, which compelled the Board of Game Commissioners to add a week to the 2020 bear archery season.
“Pennsylvania has the best bear population monitoring program in America and is a leader in bear management among eastern states,” emphasized agency Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “If season adjusts are needed in future seasons, we’ll know quickly and adjust accordingly.”