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PGC issues bear harvest record

It wouldn’t be surprising to discover a record number of internet searches on the topic “How to rug a bear.”

The Pennsylvania Game Commission announced Monday that hunters set a new Pennsylvania bear-harvest record.

Bears were taken in 59 counties. Lycoming County led the state with 283, followed by Clinton County with 267 and Tioga County with 261.

The number of bears harvested in the northwest region totaled 535, with Warren County topping neighboring counties in the region.

The latest county preliminary harvest totals for all seasons are: Warren, 142; Venango, 79; Forest, 66; Jefferson, 65; Clarion, 61; Crawford, 56; Butler, 44; Erie, 15; and Mercer, 7.

“Our goal was to offer more hunting opportunities and prevent Pennsylvania’s bear population from increasing,” said Game Commission Executive Director Bryan Burhans. “The response from hunters to the expanded seasons and the success they enjoyed afield were exciting to see.”

Expanded hunting opportunities provided by new special-firearms and muzzleloader bear seasons and an expanded archery bear season helped push the 2019 bear harvest. Record bear license sales also contributed: license sales currently exceed 200,000; previously they held at highs between 170,000 and 175,000. And the statewide bear population at the start of the bear-hunting seasons was about 20,000 bears.

The additional days and increased number of bear hunters appear to have made a significant difference. Great weather on peak hunting days also helped.

“It’s the largest suite of bear-season changes ever approved in a single year,” said Matt Lovallo, agency Game Mammals Section supervisor. “In most of the state, we’re going from 14 or 16 days of bear hunting to 32, from three Saturdays to seven, and we started hunting bears almost two weeks earlier.”

The largest bear through all 2019 seasons is the 813-pound male taken with a rifle on the opening day of the general season in Smithfield Township, Monroe County, by Victor M. Vassalluzzo, of Kintnersville.

The heaviest bear ever taken in Pennsylvania was an 875-pounder harvested in 2010 in Middle Smithfield Township, Pike County. Since 1992, seven black bears weighing at least 800 pounds have been lawfully harvested in Pennsylvania hunting seasons.

The Commonwealth’s previous record bear harvest occurred in 2011, when hunters took 4,350 through a slate of bear seasons. Hunters also harvested 4,164 in 2005.

The 2018 bear harvest came in at 3,153 bears, 11th-best all-time, but also the lowest bear harvest in the past 11 years. Bad weather negatively affected hunting conditions on key hunting days.

In other regions of the state preliminary harvest totals are: 342 in the southwest, 718 in southcentral, 1,214 in the northeast and 1,588 in the northcentral region.

Final bear harvest numbers will be provided in early 2020 after biologists confirm and crosscheck harvest records.

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