Hunters harvested 3,099 black bears during the combined archery and firearms seasons in West Virginia in 2019—the third-highest harvest ever recorded in the Mountain State.
The preliminary harvest for the combined seasons is 19 percent above the 2,606 bears killed in 2018, and the harvest has exceeded 3,000 kills in four of the last five years, according to Colin Carpenter, black-bear project leader for the W.Va. Division of Natural Resources.
“When looking at all mast species combined, mast production in 2019 was 12 percent above mast production in 2018 and 6 percent above the long–term average," Carpenter said.
"In addition, the mast index for all oak species in 2019 was up 20 percent over 2018, but still 8 percent below the long-term average. Historically, abundant mast yields a decreased bow-crossbow harvest and an increased December firearms harvest.
The production of red and black oak mast increased 341 percent; scarlet oak mast increased 228 percent, and black cherry mast increased 51 percent over levels recorded in 2018. Meanwhile, the production of white oak mast decreased 63 percent, chestnut oak mast decreased 54 percent, and hickory mast decreased 16 percent over 2018 levels.
The 2019 Mast Survey and Hunting Outlook predicted an increased bow/crossbow harvest compared to 2018 and a decreased December firearms harvest over the levels observed in 2018 because total mast production was considered average.
“The prediction held true for both the bow-crossbow and December seasons and the overall harvest was much higher than 2018,” he said.
“However, the excellent bow/crossbow harvest and decreased December firearms harvest demonstrated the scattered nature of mast production in 2019. Overall, the 2019 harvest increased during the September-October and bow-crossbow seasons and decreased during the buck-gun and December seasons.”
Hunters killed 966 bears during the first segment of the 2019 bow/crossbow season (Sept. 28 to Nov. 24). Hunters harvested 511 bears with vertical bows, 455 with crossbows. The top five counties were Fayette (106), Nicholas (58), McDowell (55), Webster (48) and Greenbrier (47).
Firearms hunters harvested 2,133 bears during 2019. Hunters took 881 bears in September and October (50 bears during the concurrent antlerless deer/bear season), 498 during the concurrent buck-gun bear season and 754 during the traditional December season.
No bears were harvested during the Mountaineer Heritage Season in January. The top five counties for harvests were Randolph (201), Pendleton (162), Nicholas (156) and Boone (132).