DNR reports second highest bear kill in W.Va. history

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A black bear hides in a thicket in rural West Virginia. Photo courtesy W.Va. Dept. of Commerce

Hunters in West Virginia harvested 3,160 black bears during the combined 2017 archery and firearms seasons, which is the second highest recorded bear kill in state history.

Due to more abundant mast production in 2017, the Division of Natural Resources expected a decrease in the archery harvest and an increase in the December firearms harvest compared to 2016, according to Colin Carpenter, Black Bear Project leader for the W.Va. Division of Natural Resources.

While both predictions held true, the harvest count for the 2017 seasons increased 5 percent over the 3,012 bears killed in 2016. This is the third straight year the black bear harvest has topped 3,000.

“Historically, an abundance of mast makes bears harder for archers to target, yet leads to a large December firearms harvest,” Carpenter said.

“Mast abundance delays denning and keeps bears available to hunters for both the buck-gun and December firearms seasons.”

Hunters killed 612 bears during the first segment of the 2017 archery season (Sept. 30 – Nov. 19). Hunters harvested 327 bears with vertical bows and 285 with crossbows. The top five counties for archery harvest were Nicholas (53), Randolph (45), Fayette (43), Mercer (38) and Preston (38).

Firearms hunters harvested 2,548 bears in 2017. Hunters took 623 bears in September and October, 678 during the concurrent buck-gun bear season, and 1,247 during the traditional December season. The top five counties for firearms harvest were Randolph (224), Webster (210), Pocahontas (204), Pendleton (193) and Nicholas (187).

“The addition of early bear seasons and the buck-gun season over the past 10 years has helped decrease the influence of mast crops on total harvest,” Carpenter said.

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