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Big Bears, Big Harvest

January 27, 2014
HARRISBURG-Pennsylvania hunters harvested a total of 3,510 bears in 2013, the fifth-highest tally in state history, the Pennsylvania Game Commission reported today.

The final total continues a trend of recent bear seasons taking their place in the record books. With harvest totals for 2013 now official, three of the five highest harvests have occurred in the past three years.

The all-time high was recorded in 2011, when 4,350 bears were harvested. In 2012, Pennsylvania hunters harvested 3,632 bears – the third-largest harvest in state history.

What might place 2013 in a class of its own is the number of large bears taken. Hunters in 2013 harvested 58 bears that weighed 500 pounds or more, and nine of those bears weighed 600 pounds or more.

While 2012 saw a higher number of bears harvested statewide compared to 2013, fewer large bears were taken. Forty-five of the bears in the 2012 harvest weighed 500 pounds or more, with five of them weighing 600 pounds or more.

“Seeing large bears in the harvest speaks well to the health of our bear population, but it also shows the opportunity that exists to harvest a truly, trophy-sized animal,” said Mark Ternent, the Game Commission’s bear biologist.

The harvest’s heaviest bear, taken in Lackawanna County on Nov. 25 by Daniel J. Beavers, of Covington Township, Lackawanna County, weighed an estimated 772 pounds.

The second- and third-heaviest bears of 2013 were taken later in the season. Nicholas Corridoni, of Duryea, turned the extended bear season in Luzerne County into a successful one by taking a bear estimated at 656 pounds during a Dec. 5 hunt in Pittston Township. And Derek A. Long, of Yukon, harvested a bear estimated at 640 pounds during the final day of the general season while hunting in Covington Township, Clearfield County.

One bear on the 2013 top 10 list – a male with an actual live weight of 598 pounds – was taken in the statewide bear archery season. Randall E. Tressler, of McVeytown, took the bear Nov. 20 with a crossbow in Wayne Township, Mifflin County.

Overall, 197 bears were taken during the statewide archery season in 2013.

The remaining bears on the top 10 list all were taken in the four-day general season, which had a total harvest of 2,521 bears. They include: an estimated 632-pounder taken Nov. 23 in East Providence Township, Bedford County, by Michael L. Truax, of Everett; an estimated 628-pound bear taken Nov. 27 in Texas Township, Wayne County, by Matthew F. Doherty, of Honesdale; an estimated 627-pound bear taken Nov. 23 in Bloss Township, Tioga County, by Wayne A. Gehers, of Mohnton; an estimated 616-pounder taken Nov. 23 in Union Township, Tioga County, by Bradley S. Rohrer, of Lancaster; an estimated 601-pound bear taken Nov. 25 in Shrewsbury Township, Sullivan County, by Jeffrey C. Kratz, of Collegeville; and an estimated 597-pound bear taken Nov. 23 in Greene Township, Pike County, by Jenna L. Schoenagel, of Greentown.

Extended bear seasons played a significant role in the overall harvest in 2013. Statewide, 780 bears were taken during extended seasons, which are open in select wildlife-management units. The total represents an increase compared to the 672 bears harvested during extended seasons in 2012.

Tioga County claimed the highest harvest in extended seasons, with 100 bears taken after the close of the general statewide bear season. Other top counties, and their harvest totals during the extended seasons, were: Wayne, 66; Bradford, 65; Pike, 60; and Potter, 54.

Bears were harvested in 53 of the state’s 67 counties. And unlike many years, when the top counties for bear harvests come exclusively from the Northeast and Northcentral regions, the Northwest Region also is represented on the top five counties list in 2013. Meanwhile, one of the usual leaders, Clinton County, dropped from the list. Among counties leading the bear harvest were: Tioga, 286 (227 in 2012); Lycoming, 234 (341); Potter, 196 (179); Pike, 150 (108); and Warren, 148 (94).

Ternent said changes in the top five counties list this year have their explanations. Acorns are a highly sought-after food by bears in the fall. And in years like 2013 when acorns are scarce, northcentral counties like Clinton, which are made up mostly of oak forest, tend to see harvest decline. Meanwhile, counties farther north, like Tioga and Potter, increase their harvests because beech and cherry are more common.

A shifting of the harvest is not permanent though, Ternent said, and hunting prospects in Clinton County should be exceptional next year.

Likewise, Ternent said, the gains seen in places like Warren County reflect expansion of the state’s bear population into an area that once was considered on the fringe of the statewide range. The expansion has been followed by growth in the region’s bear population, and correspondingly, increasing harvests, he said.

Final county harvests by region (with 2012 figures in parentheses) are:

Northwest (466): Warren, 148 (94); Jefferson, 70 (51); Venango, 70 (62); Clarion, 59 (77); Forest, 50 (56); Crawford, 36 (6); Butler, 24 (11); Erie, 6 (7); and Mercer, 3 (1).

Southwest (335): Somerset, 106 (94); Fayette, 67 (79); Indiana, 49 (24); Armstrong, 43 (35); Westmoreland, 41 (37); Cambria, 26 (11); and Allegheny, 3 (4).

Northcentral (1,430): Tioga, 286 (227); Lycoming, 234 (341); Potter 196 (179); Clinton, 133 (265); Clearfield, 125 (102); Cameron, 108 (67); McKean, 108 (134); Elk, 103 (76); Centre, 96 (143); and Union, 41 (82).

Southcentral (273): Huntingdon, 67 (125); Bedford, 55 (86); Mifflin, 31 (62); Blair, 29 (50); Juniata, 28 (37); Fulton, 19 (25); Snyder, 18 (14); Perry, 16 (32); Franklin, 9 (14); Cumberland, 1(2); and Adams, 0 (2).

Northeast (919): Pike, 150 (108); Wayne, 127 (73); Sullivan, 105 (60); Luzerne, 98 (100); Bradford, 96 (86); Monroe, 79 (102); Wyoming, 66 (57); Carbon, 57 (67); Susquehanna, 55 (41); Lackawanna, 48 (37); Columbia, 24 (36); Northumberland, 14 (26); and Montour, 0 (3).

Southeast (87): Schuylkill, 35 (39); Dauphin, 23 (48); Northampton, 18 (21); Lebanon, 7 (4);

Berks, 4 (7); and Lehigh 0 (3).

The final bear harvests by Wildlife Management Unit (with final 2012 figures in parentheses) were: WMU 1A, 16 (4); WMU 1B, 94 (38); WMU 2B, 4 (6); WMU 2C, 247 (268); WMU 2D, 171 (162); WMU 2E, 93 (50); WMU 2F, 309 (285); WMU 2G, 575 (829); WMU 2H, 87 (0); WMU 3A, 362 (342); WMU 3B, 364 (279); WMU 3C, 195 (146); WMU 3D, 393 (305); WMU 4A, 80 (139); WMU 4B, 67 (84); WMU 4C, 93 (163); WMU 4D, 275 (403); WMU 4E, 68 (110); WMU 5A, 0 (1); WMU 5B, 1 (2); and WMU 5C, 16 (16).

Numbers at the WMU level might be a bit misleading because of the creation of WMU 2H, which previously was part of WMU 2G.

In any case, Pennsylvania’s 2013 bear harvest ranks as one of the largest on record.

“The totals provide further proof that there’s never been a better time to hunt bears in Pennsylvania,” Ternent said.

Other recent bear harvests include: 3,090 in 2010; 3,512 in 2009; 3,458 in 2008; 2,360 in 2007; 3,124 in 2006; 4,162 in 2005; 2,976 in 2004; 3,004 in 2003; 2,686 in 2002; 3,063 in 2001; 3,075 in 2000; and 1,741 in 1999.

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