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BEAR HARVEST TOTALS 2,920

02/15/2024

HARRISBURG, PA - There was a time when black bear hunting occupied a faithful, but small, niche in Pennsylvania’s hunting calendar. That’s true no more.

The state’s bear hunters remain as loyal in their pursuit as ever, but there are way more of them.

Pennsylvania had fewer than 130,000 bear hunters in 2003. In 2023, it had 206,124. That total – the fourth-highest ever – marked the fifth year in a row that bear license sales topped 200,000.

White-tailed deer is the only species that puts more hunters in Pennsylvania’s woods than bears these days.

All those hunters continue to do well, too. Last year they harvested 2,920 bears. That was down from the 3,170 taken in the 2022 seasons, which isn’t necessarily surprising given the Game Commission eliminated the extended bear season in five Wildlife Management Units – WMUs 1B, 2C, 4A, 4B and 4D – for the 2023 season.

On average, from 2019 to 2022, those WMUs produced a harvest of 375 bears during the extended season.

“So I think this decrease in the overall harvest is mostly explained by the removal of the extended season in those five WMUs,” said Emily Carrollo, the Game Commission’s Black Bear Program Specialist. “Obviously, there are many other things that affect a harvest season for any wildlife species. But most of it can be explained by the removal of those five WMUs.”

As in past years, the overall bear harvest was spread across the state. Fifty-eight of 67 counties gave up at least one bear, as did 20 of 22 WMUs. Hunters got bears in all seasons, too. The traditional statewide firearms bear season contributed the most to the harvest, 1,086. The archery season added 695, the extended season 591, the muzzleloader season 424, the special firearms season 117 and the early archery season 7.

Some of those bears were tremendous specimens.

The largest harvested was a 691-pounder taken in the extended rifle season in Porter Township, Pike County, by Mitchell Jonathan, of Quakertown. But five other hunters got bears exceeding 600 pounds, and all of the top 10-heaviest bears weighed at least 576 pounds.

Those bears are the 645-pounder taken in the archery season in Foster Township, Schuylkill County, by Joseph Brennan, of Pottsville; a 636-pounder taken in the firearms season in Roaring Brook Township, Lackawanna County, by James Lucke, of Hamlin; a 630-pounder taken in the firearms season in Hamilton Township, Monroe County, by Wesley Leibig, of Saylorsburg; a 616-pounder taken in archery season in Nesquehoning Borough, Carbon County, by Brad Matalavage, of Nesquehoning; a 605-pounder taken in the firearms season in Upper Mount Bethel Township, Northampton County, by Kyle Heselpoth, of Port Treverton; a 589-pounder taken in the firearms season in Washington Township, Jefferson County, by Benjamin Freemer, of Brockway; a 581-pounder taken in the firearms season in Watson Township, Lycoming County, by Derek Fleegle, of Jersey Shore; a 581-pounder taken in the firearms season in Cherry Township, Sullivan County, by Samuel Fisher of Montgomery; and a 576-pounder taken in the firearms season in Cherry Township, Sullivan County, by Ryan Gehman, of Denver.

Among counties, Tioga produced the most, giving up 176 bears last season. It was followed in the top 10 by Lycoming with 170, Potter with 155, Pike with 142, Bradford with 138, Luzerne with 135, Monroe with 127, Wayne with 124, Clinton with 108 and Carbon with 101.

Final county harvests by region (with 2022 figures in parentheses) are:

Northwest – 357 (502): Forest, 68 (51); Warren, 65 (88); Venango, 64 (79); Jefferson, 50 (81); Clarion, 44 (80); Butler, 29 (40); Crawford, 24 (52); Erie, 8 (20); and Mercer, 5 (11).

Southwest –141 (253): Armstrong, 41 (50); Somerset, 32 (64); Indiana, 24 (31); Fayette, 23 (34); Westmoreland, 13 (25); Cambria, 5 (44); Greene, 1 (3); Beaver, 1 (0); and Allegheny, 1 (2).

Northcentral – 1,034 (1,028): Tioga, 176 (187); Lycoming, 170 (152); Potter, 155 (119); Clinton, 108 (113); Elk, 90 (85); McKean, 90 (52); Cameron, 85 (52); Clearfield, 72 (114); Centre, 71 (122); and Union, 17 (32).

Southcentral – 162 (355): Bedford, 34 (71); Mifflin, 28 (34); Huntingdon, 25 (81); Juniata, 19 (26); Perry, 14 (29); Blair, 11 (33); Adams, 10 (7); Franklin, 9 (18); Cumberland 6 (8); Fulton, 4 (9); and Snyder, 2 (15).

Northeast – 1,067 (901): Pike, 142 (84); Bradford, 138 (126); Luzerne, 135 (126); Monroe, 127 (114); Wayne, 124 (81); Carbon, 101 (78); Sullivan, 75 (84); Susquehanna, 67 (47); Wyoming, 62 (50); Lackawanna, 57 (51); Columbia, 27 (46); Northumberland, 10 (10); and Montour, 2 (4).

Southeast – 159 (131): Schuylkill, 65 (65); Dauphin, 42 (27); Northampton, 21 (12); Berks, 16 (11); Lebanon, 10 (14); and Lehigh, 5 (2).

The final bear harvests by Wildlife Management Unit (with final 2022 figures in parentheses) were: 

WMU 1A, 19 (26); WMU 1B, 53 (115); WMU 2A, 3 (13); WMU 2B, 3 (4); WMU 2C, 87 (159); WMU 2D, 146 (202); WMU 2E, 41 (85); WMU 2F, 247 (258); WMU 2G, 565 (425); WMU 3A, 203  (174); WMU 3B, 343 (292); WMU 3C, 221 (165); WMU 3D, 451 (344); WMU 4A, 42 (114); WMU 4B, 47 (76); WMU 4C, 220 (190); WMU 4D, 124 (291); WMU 4E, 72 (109); WMU 5A, 18 (17); WMU 5B, 0(2); WMU 5C, 15 (8); and WMU 5D, 0 (0).

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