bear

Apparently this bear knows it can kick back and relax after making it through the most successful bear season ever in Pennsylvania.

HARRISBURG – In the words of Pennsylvania Game Commission bear biologist Mark Ternent the number of bears taken by hunters during the 2019 seasons went beyond being record setting, the numbers were historic.

Hunters took 4,653 black bears last year, setting a state record by shattering the previous record by 303 bears set eight years earlier. In 2011 hunters set the record by taking 4,350 bears, breaking the previous record by 186 bears of the 4,164 taken in 2005.

When hunters took “just” 3,153 bears in 2018 it ranked No. 11 all-time, but was also the fewest bears taken in 11 years. With a statewide bear population of approximately 20,000 and rising, as were bear-damage complaints, PGC biologists proposed and had approved the most changes ever in a single license year.

Over bear hunting’s three major season segments hunters took 1,629 bears in the general season; 1,340 in the muzzleloader and special firearms seasons; 1,117 in extended firearms seasons and 561 in the bear archery season. Bears taken in the muzzleloader, extended and archery seasons are all record totals, and with opening-day totals typically responsible for 50 to 60 percent of a bear season total.

When inclement weather interferes, the season’s take suffers, which was not the case in 2019. Bears were taken in 58 of 67 counties and 22 of 23 Wildlife Management Units.

“To have three independent bear seasons with harvests in excess of 1,000 is surely historic,” Ternent said. “When a record 202,043 hunters buy licenses and can participant in the opening days of four seasons that weren’t impacted by poor weather, there’s always a great chance for hunter success to increase.”

“There were 30 days of bear hunting across all bear seasons in 2019, and the last time that happened was in 1931. 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.”

Skull size is used to determine records for bears, nevertheless some impressive bears were taken by weight, with the heaviest being an 813-pound boar taken with a rifle by Vic Vassalluzzo of Kintersville on the opening day of the general season in Smithfield Township. An 875-pound bear taken in 2010 in Middle Smithfield Township, Pike County, remains the heaviest taken in Pennsylvania and is one of seven 800-pounders taken legally since 1992.

Five regional hunters added to the impressive total with a 747-pound boar taken by Jay Kripp Jr., of Mountaintop with a rifle in Wright Township, Luzerne County, topping the list. Those whose bears exceed 600 pounds are Brian Borosh, Jim Thorpe, with a 696-pound boar taken with a rifle in Penn Forest Township, Carbon County; Nicholas Podgurski, Elysburg, who took a 657-pound boar with a rifle in Franklin Township, Columbia County; Dale Kobal, Hunlock Creek, who took a 656-pound boar in Hanover Township, Luzerne County, and Craig Moyer, New Ringgold, who took a 630-pound boar with archery tackle in West Penn Township, Schuylkill County.

Despite the number of bears taken, the total is still within a harvest range in which the PGC is comfortable. That is what compelled the board of game commissioners to propose the addition of 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,” PGC executive director Bryan Burhans said. “If season adjusts are needed in future seasons, we’ll know quickly and adjust accordingly.”

Final county totals 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 – 347 (261): Somerset, 124 (85); Fayette, 62 (58); Armstrong, 58 (33); Indiana, 42 (34); Cambria, 29 (21); Westmoreland, 29 (26); Allegheny, 2 (2); Greene, 1 (1); and Beaver, 0 (1).

Northcentral – 1,605 (989): Lycoming, 284 (159); Clinton, 267 (158); Tioga, 267 (166); Potter, 174 (109); Centre, 146 (87); McKean, 129 (67); Clearfield, 103 (87); Elk, 101 (54); Cameron, 80 (67); and Union, 54 (35).

Southcentral – 731 (474): Huntingdon, 180 (142); Bedford, 156 (80); Fulton, 80 (58); Perry, 68 (31); Mifflin, 54 (29); Franklin, 47 (26); Juniata, 42 (34); Blair, 40 (44); Cumberland, 27 (12); Snyder, 25 (7); Adams, 11 (7); and York, 1 (4).

Northeast – 1,228 (775): Luzerne, 163 (105); Pike, 161 (104); Wayne, 131 (70); Monroe, 130 (103); Bradford, 128 (96); Carbon, 88 (60); Sullivan, 87 (53); Susquehanna, 82 (46); Wyoming, 82 (40); Lackawanna, 79 (34); Columbia, 64 (38); Northumberland, 26 (24); and Montour, 7 (2).

Southeast – 185 (137): Schuylkill, 79 (50); Dauphin, 67 (48); Berks, 17 (8); Northampton, 16 (17); Lehigh, 4 (4); and Lebanon, 2 (10).

Final Wildlife Management Unit totals with final 2018 figures in parentheses are:

WMU 1A, 20 (23); WMU 1B, 167 (161); WMU 2A, 11 (7); WMU 2B, 3 (4); WMU 2C, 292 (193); WMU 2D, 189 (155); WMU 2E, 82 (75); WMU 2F, 351 (259); WMU 2G, 712 (422); WMU 2H, 111 (73); WMU 3A, 268 (222); WMU 3B, 427 (223); WMU 3C, 224 (134); WMU 3D, 493 (323); WMU 4A, 308 (218); WMU 4B, 192 (114); WMU 4C, 254 (168); WMU 4D, 370 (252); WMU 4E, 139 (105); WMU 5A, 25 (8); WMU 5B, 1 (4); and WMU 5C, 14 (10).

Doyle Dietz is parliamentarian of the Pennsylvania Outdoor Writers Association.

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