Black bear sightings became commonplace from early spring into the fall in communities of all sizes throughout Northeast Pennsylvania.
Such increased sightings had Pennsylvania Game Commission staff hopeful the 2018 bear hunting seasons would result in more than 4,000 bears taken from the statewide estimated population of 20,000.
PGC bear biologist Mark Ternent said with the expanded seasons that were in place the all-time record of 4,350 taken in 2011 could be broken.
Instead, the bottom fell out and the 3,153 bears taken in 2018 failed to crack the top 10, coming in at No. 11. For the second consecutive year, poor weather conditions had a negative impact on hunter success, with the 3,438 taken in 2017 coming in at No. 9.
“I thought Pennsylvania was capable of producing a 4,000-bear harvest the past two years, but we’ve had some bad breaks with weather events during our bear seasons the past two years,” Ternent said. “With better hunting conditions, I do believe hunters would have taken another 1,000 bears in each of the past two seasons.”
A season-by-season breakdown for 2018, with 2017 totals in parentheses, shows hunters took 2,017 bears (1,862) in the general firearms season, 699 (1,083) in the extended season, 424 (493) in the archery season and 12 in the early season.
Ternent believes the rainy opening to the firearms season in 2017 reduced the harvest by hundreds of bears, and the same conditions hampered the 2018 extended bear season opener, which in many wildlife management units was the opening day of firearms deer season.
Even with the bitter temperatures in January and February, bear complaints have been received by county game wardens and PGC regional officers. As such, the most liberal seasons for bear hunting in Pennsylvania received preliminary approval by the board of game commissioners for the 2019 seasons.
In the Special Regulations Areas of Wildlife Management Units 2B, 5C and 5D archery bear season opens Sept. 21, and continues through Nov. 29; in WMU 5B the season is Oct. 5 through Nov. 16; and the statewide archery bear season is
Oct. 28 through November 9.
This year for the first time there will be a statewide muzzleloader season and special firearms season running concurrently with the antlerless deer seasons.
Muzzleloader season for bears opens Oct. 19 and runs through Oct. 26, and the special firearms season allowing the use of all legal firearms is open for junior and senior license holders, mentored youth permit holders, disabled person permit holders, and Pennsylvania residents serving on active duty in U.S. Armed Services or in the U.S. Coast Guard is open Oct. 24-26.
Statewide, the general firearms season opens Nov. 23 and runs through Nov. 27, and this year the concurrent firearms season for deer and bear has been increased to
By the numbers
Pennsylvania Game Commission Northeast region bear totals for 2018, with 2017 totals in parentheses:
Overall: 775 (1,112)
Pike: 104 (193)
Luzerne: 105 (108)
Monroe: 103 (82)
Bradford: 96 (112)
Wayne: 70 (156)
Carbon: 60 (57)
Sullivan: 53 (156)
Susquehanna: 46 (66)
Wyoming: 40 (70)
Lackawanna: 34 (65)
Columbia: 38 (29)
Northumberland: 24 (16)
Montour: 2 (2).
Top 10 seasons for bears taken in Pennsylvania overall:
1. 2011: 4,350
2. 2005: 4,164
3. 2015: 3,748
4. 2012: 3,632
5. 2016: 3,529
6. 2009: 3,512
7. 2013: 3,510
8. 2008: 3,458
9. 2017: 3,438
10. 2014: 3,366