Despite one of the worst opening days in more than three decades of bear hunting, Pennsylvania charted yet another Top 10 bear harvest in 2017.
Hunters harvested 3,438 bears in the 2017 seasons, with an archery harvest of 493 bears and the extended season harvest of 1,083 bears setting records for those seasons.
Bears were taken in 57 counties and 22 of Pennsylvania’s 23 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs).
The totals represent a rebound from what was a rough start to the firearms bear season when widespread wind and rain noticeably reduced hunter participation on opening day – traditionally the top day for bear hunters.
“Only 694 hunters were successful on opening day, compared to the usual 1,500 hunters who typically harvest a bear,” said Game Commission bear biologist Mark Ternent.
“In fact, the last time opening-day harvest dipped below 700 bears was in 1982 when bear season was only two days and the statewide bear population numbered less than 5,000 animals,” Ternent said.
Participation returned to normal by the second day and hunters proceeded to take 1,852 bears in the general season, which is just over 70 percent of the average.
New bear-hunting opportunities – including an earlier bear archery season that overlaps with a week of the archery deer season and expanded extended bear seasons – paved the way for new records in those seasons, making up for some of the opening-day loss.
“The net result is that 2017 ranks as the ninth best all-time bear harvest, and hunters will have the same season opportunities and a strong bear population again in 2018,” Ternent said.
The all-time bear harvest high was recorded in 2011, when 4,350 bears were harvested. Hunters harvested 4,164 in 2005. All other bear harvests have been less than 4,000.
While the 2017 harvest was down compared to 2016’s harvest of 3,529, harvest totals increased within the Game Commission’s Northeast and Southeast Regions.