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Outdoors: PA bear harvest sets record

Pennsylvania’s final bear harvest figures are in and have set a new state record over a 30-day season.

According to the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC), hunters took 4,653 bears, a one-third increase over the 2018 seasons when 3,153 bears were taken. Pennsylvania’s top bear harvest was 4,350 bears in the 2011 season.

The PGC believes the harvest is down somewhat due to bad weather that kept most hunters out of the woods. But the agency points out that in the four years prior to 2019, hunters still took more than 13,850 bears, which shows the population to hover around 20,000.

Interestingly, the break down of the three major season segments shows that hunters took 1,629 bears during the general season; 1,340 in the muzzleloader and special firearms seasons; 1,117 in the extended firearms seasons and 561 during the archery bear season. The PGC notes that the muzzleloader, extended and archery harvests are all new record harvests as well.

It was pointed out that when a record 202,043 hunters buy licenses and can participate in opening days of four seasons, there’s always a greater chance of success. And opening day accounted for 50-60 percent of bear season harvest with bears taken in 58 counties and 22 of Pennsylvania’s 23 Wildlife Management Units.

For this season, the top largest bear taken was an 813-pound male shot with a rifle on opening day of the general season in Smithfield Township, Monroe County by Victor M. Vassaluzzo of Kintnersville, Bucks County.

In comparison, the heaviest bear ever taken in Pennsylvania was an 875-pounder shot in 2010 in Middle Smithfield Township, Pike County. Since 1992, seven bears weighing at least 800 pounds were harvested in Pennsylvania. And it’s been said there are a few out there in excess of 900 pounds.

Lycoming County was the high roller with 284 bears taken followed by Clinton County (267) and Tioga County (267). Other top counties were Huntingdon (180); Potter (174); Luzerne (163); Pike, (161); Bedford, (156); Centre, (146); and Warren, (146).

Locally, and closer to the Lehigh Valley, these are the final totals with last years harvest in parenthesis:

Northeast region - 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 (20).

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

Despite the impressive harvest numbers, the PGC says the Pennsylvanias bear harvest it still within the harvest range in which the commission is comfortable with. And, that 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 emphasized, “If season adjusts are needed in future seasons, we’ll know quickly and adjust accordingly.”

Press photo by Nick HromiakPennsylvania's final bear harvest tally of 4,653 bears set a new state record says the PGC.