2002 Bear Harvest Figures Available

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The Pennsylvania Game Commission's official final harvest report for the statewide three-day bear season and three-county season extension shows hunters took 2,686 bears. The 2002 season placed as the state's third best bear harvest.

"Pennsylvania's top three bear harvests have occurred over the past three years," noted Game Commission Executive Director Vern Ross. "It's a trend that suggests bear hunting is better than its ever been in Pennsylvania. In fact, today there are more places to hunt bears in the Commonwealth than ever. Bears continue to increase their range and we expect the population to continue making advances into new areas for some time to come.

"Another fascinating sidebar to the 2002 harvest was the number of huge bears taken by hunters. A dozen bears exceeding 600 pounds were harvested during the season. The largest was an almost unimaginable 761-pounder taken in Luzerne County. When you consider that the average male bear taken in the harvest weighed about 240 pounds, you start to appreciate just how big this bear was!"

Hunters took 2,512 bears during the 3-day season and 174 during the extended season in Carbon, Monroe and Pike counties. Bears were harvested in 49 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties. In 2001, hunters took 3,063 bears in the Commonwealth. The state's best ever harvest occurred in 2000, when hunters took 3,075.

"The 2000 and 2001 hunting seasons provided record harvests, in part, because fall foods for bears were abundant," explained Mark Ternent, Game Commission bear biologist. "This year, due to drought and early spring frosts, fall food conditions were spotty or marginal in many places, which likely sent some bears to den early, before hunting season opened.

"Conditions were best for hunting during the last two days of the season after a fresh snowfall blanketed much of the bear range, but a lack of snow on the first day when hunting pressure is greatest also suppressed the harvest this year."

About 15,000 bears were estimated to be in the state prior to the start of hunting season, based on the number of ear-tagged bears reported in the harvest. This estimate is almost identical to estimates in 2000 and 2001.

The top bear harvest county was Pike with 225, narrowly topping Lycoming with 224. Pike, however, had the benefit of a season extension, which padded its overall harvest with an additional 82 bears. Other top bear harvest counties were Clinton with 179; Monroe, 116 (including 49 in the extended season) and Centre with 114.

The bear harvest during the extended northeast season was within the Game Commission's management objectives, Ternent said. During the season and its Pocono extension, hunters took 443 bears in Pike, Monroe, and Carbon county; 174 were taken in the 6-day season extension, which ran concurrent with the first week of the deer firearms season.

"This overall harvest represented 21 percent of the local bear population, which should help to reduce bear densities in an area of the state that has seen human populations and bear conflicts increase substantially over the past 10 years," Ternent said. "However, the harvest rate was not so large as to severely impact the bear population or future hunting prospects, which is why a similar season was given preliminary approval by the Board of Game Commissioners for the 2003 bear season."

Statewide harvest rates normally range between 19 and 20 percent.

Based on the preliminary approval of new Wildlife Management Units, Ternent noted that the extended bear season for 2003 will take place in WMU 3D, which includes: all of Pike and Monroe counties; and portions of Wayne, Lackawanna, Luzerne, Carbon, Northampton and Lehigh counties.(For a detailed view of the proposed WMU map, go to the Game Commission's website - www.pgc.state.pa.us - and click on "Wildlife," and "Proposed WMUs.")

The recommendation to establish a second bear season in Carbon, Monroe and Pike counties was developed by the Game Commission's Nuisance Black Bear Management Committee, which was created in response to growing complaints about bear conflicts with residents. The committee recommended this special bear season in a report to the Board of Game Commissioners at its October 2001 meeting.

The committee recognized rural residential areas, particularly in the Pocono Mountains where developments have been springing up at a brisk pace for some time, as places where bear conflicts were either rapidly becoming a problem or mushrooming into an intolerable nuisance.

"This situation has resulted from varied factors such as the state's expanding bear population, construction of housing developments in prime bear range and residents failing to keep foods away from bears, including the intentional or unintentional feeding of bears, which has prompted some bears to develop undesirable habits and dependencies," said Ternent.

"The fact that numerous people increasingly were having unwanted close encounters with bears in the Poconos spurred the agency's Nuisance Black Bear Management Committee to recommend a season extension to reduce the local abundance of bears. We hope a smaller bear population reduces property damage costs, agency manpower demands for responding to bear complaints and undesirable close calls with bears. But it won't eliminate bear conflicts. A change in people's behavior toward bears, particularly the amount of food made available to bears around homes, will be required to fully address the problem."

In response, the Board of Game Commissioners, on Jan. 7, gave final approval to a measure to ban the feeding of bears, which was a recommendation of the agency's Nuisance Black Bear Management Committee.

Under the new regulation, those who intentionally feed bears could face a $100 fine. If an individual's unintentional feeding activities are attracting bears to an area, and residents call the Game Commission to voice their concern, a Wildlife Conservation Officer may issue a written notice prohibiting the unintentional feeding of bears at that location. If called back to an area when unintentional feeding has been addressed through a written warning, the individual could face a $100 fine.

Check station results indicated that a cross-section of Pennsylvania's hunters were successful at bagging a bear. Of the successful bear hunters, 77 ranged from 12-16 years of age, including one woman; and 156 ranged from 17-21 years, including one woman. Also, 63 hunters were in the 67-81 years age group, including two women.

The age bracket with the most successful bear hunters was the 37-41 years age group, with 434 hunters, including three women. The bracket with the second most successful bear hunters was the 32-36 years age group, with 397 hunters, including 7 women.

Other age bracket breakdowns are: 188 in the 22-26 years age group, including four women; 281 in the 27-31 years age group, including one woman; 376 in the 42-46 years age group, including three women; 288 in the 47-51 years age group, including six women; 197 in the 52-56 years age group; 138 in the 57-61 years age group; and 88 in the 62-66 years age group, including two women.

A total of 30 successful bear hunters were women. There were three hunters where the age was not recorded.

In the harvest, 2,647 were taken with a rifle; 15 with a shotgun; 13 with a handgun; 7 with a bow; 3 with a muzzleloader; and one with a crossbow.

Hunters took three bears that were 600 pounds or larger during the extended season in the Poconos. A total of a dozen bears that exceeded 600 pounds were taken during the three-day and extended bear seasons. The largest was a male bear that weighed 761 pounds (estimated live weight) taken the first day, Nov. 25, in Luzerne County's Foster Township by Earl J. Cichy Jr. of Freeland. Other top bears - all listed with estimated live weights - are:

  • 721-pound male taken in Pike County's Dingman Township on Dec. 2 at 11:45 a.m. by Michael M. Sliker of Dingmans Ferry;
  •  686-pound male taken in Pike County's Lehman Township on Dec. 2 at 7:30 a.m. by Dale R. Bastian of Bushkill;
  •  670-pound male taken in Monroe County's Hamilton Township on Dec. 2 at 7 a.m. by George R. Daransky of Stroudsburg;
  •  642-pound male taken in Huntingdon County's Todd Township on Nov. 26 at 8 a.m. by Joshua L. Cutchall of Robertsdale;
  • 629-pound male taken in Luzerne County's Bear Creek Township on Nov. 26 at 7 a.m. by Michael X. Shovlin of Pittston;
  •  625-pound male taken in Lackawanna County's Thornhurst Township on Nov. 26 at noon by Andrew R. Mosley of Wilkes-Barre;
  • 620-pound male taken in Elk County's Benezette Township on Nov. 25 at 7:15 a.m. by Rick R. Mancuso of St. Marys;
  • 618-pound male taken in Clinton County's Gallagher Township on Nov. 25 at 1:05 p.m. by James S. Watson of Altoona;
  • 614-pound male taken in Huntingdon County's Jackson Township on Nov. 26 at 10 a.m. by David A. Peachy of Belleville;
  • 604-pound male taken in Lycoming County's Mifflin Township on Nov. 25 at 11:30 a.m. by Paul D. Edwards of Jersey Shore; and
  • 603-pound male taken in Bradford County's Terry Township on Nov. 25 at 3:15 p.m. by Randall S. Johnson of Wyalusing.

Following is a breakdown of county harvests by region with 2001's harvest figures in parenthesis:

Northwest - Warren, 47 (92); Jefferson, 40 (58); Venango, 37 (42); Forest, 33 (81); Clarion, 21 (25); Butler, 7 (6); Crawford, 2 (0); and Mercer, 1 (0).

Southwest - Somerset, 88 (76); Fayette, 56 (43); Indiana, 51 (36); Westmoreland, 38 (61); Armstrong, 28 (34); and Cambria, 27 (25).

Northcentral - Lycoming, 224 (242); Clinton, 179 (267); Centre, 114 (151); Tioga, 109 (133); McKean, 108 (107); Potter, 97 (117); Clearfield, 91 (130); Elk, 88 (109); Cameron, 84 (126); and Union, 22 (36).

Southcentral - Huntingdon, 78 (99); Bedford, 60 (52); Blair, 30 (52); Mifflin, 25 (37); Snyder, 17 (9); Juniata, 8 (7); Fulton, 6 (7); Franklin, 2 (1); and Perry 0 (5).

Northeast - Pike, 225; (177); Monroe, 116 (65); Carbon, 102 (61); Wayne, 75 (56); Bradford, 70 (47); Luzerne 67 (95); Columbia, 41 (36); Sullivan, 28 (55); Lackawanna, 27 (47); Susquehanna, 22 (21); Wyoming 18 (35); Northumberland, 5 (6); and Montour 0 (2).

Southeast - Schuylkill, 49 (47); Dauphin, 9 (18); Lebanon, 7 (14); Lehigh, 5 (3); Northampton, 2 (6); and Berks 0 (6).