If you are one of the thousands of Pennsylvania hunters who hope to bag a bear this year, I have good news. Thanks to an expanding bear population and more hunting opportunities than ever before, your odds of tagging bear are definitely on the rise!
While far from a sure thing, thanks to an increase in both the number of seasons and their length, bear hunters in Pennsylvania will have more possible chances to bag a bruin than I ever expected to see in my lifetime.
Properly licensed hunters will have the chance to not only hunt during the traditional firearms season which will be held statewide on Nov. 23, and 25-27 (no Sunday hunting) with an extension in many areas, but also during a special archery season, a first-ever statewide muzzleloader season from Oct. 19-26 and a special firearms Junior and Senior hunt taking place Oct. 24, 25 & 26. For more details I would suggest turning to page 8 of your Hunting and Trapping Digest. Being able to check regulations in the digest is in itself news as it will once again be issued to all purchasers of a hunting license.
Why all the expanded hunting opportunities for those seeking a Pa. bruin? Well, for starters the state’s bear population is very good number-wise, however reports of both bear/human conflicts as well as the spread of mange are concerns that are best controlled through hunting. For those unfamiliar with mange, it’s a skin disease caused by a mite which, once transmitted to a healthy animal, causes a huge amount of suffering and pain, often leading to a slow and agonizing death. Over the last few years numerous bears have been afflicted throughout the state. Not only is this disease found in bears, it also can be found in furbearers such as coyotes and fox with domestic dogs and cats also at risk.
Why else increase bear hunting opportunities? With the resource having proven it can tolerate additional hunting pressure, the increased number of bear licenses that could potentially be sold will mean additional funds for the PA Game Commission, which could be used to combat the loss of funds due to dropping overall hunter numbers – a huge concern of the agency.
While our more rural counties still produce the largest bear harvest, thanks to modern game management, bears can be found almost anywhere in the state. Not only does Pennsylvania boast one of, if not the largest, black bear population in the northeast, it also produces some of the largest individuals. Proof positive that the black bear is doing well in the Keystone State.
Larry Hendricks is an avid outdoorsman from Union County.