CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Hunters harvested 1,727 black bears during the combined archery, crossbow, and firearms seasons in West Virginia in 2022, according to the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.
The preliminary harvest for the combined 2022 seasons is 37 percent below the 2,756 bears killed in 2021.
According to Colin Carpenter, black bear project leader for the division, hunters harvested fewer black bears in the combined 2022 seasons compared to previous years for several reasons.
“We predicted a lower bear harvest in 2022 based on a number of factors, including mast conditions and more restrictive hunting opportunities that were put in place to achieve management objectives,” Carpenter said.
More conservative hunting seasons occurred in all or parts of 15 eastern mountain counties where the state has reduced the bear population over the last 13 years. To reduce the population in those counties, it allowed more hunting days over the last decade, Carpenter said.
Poor mast conditions also caused bears to return to their dens early in the season, he said, and made them less available to hunters. There also were 25 fewer days of bear hunting with or without dogs from September to November, and the concurrent buck-gun and bear season was removed from all or parts of 15 counties.
Carpenter said the statewide mast index for all species combined in 2022 was down 22 percent compared to 2021. The best hard mast production in 2022 was recorded for white oak (up 137 percent) and chestnut oak (up 52 percent).
Mast production for all other monitored species decreased significantly except scrub oak and sassafras in 2022. The 2022 Mast Survey and Hunting Outlook predicted a lower archery and crossbow harvest than 2021 and a decreased firearms harvest over the levels observed in 2021. Both predictions were correct, Carpenter said.
Hunters killed 521 bears during the first segment of the 2022 archery and crossbow season, Sept. 24 to Nov. 20. Hunters harvested 250 bears with vertical bows and 271 with crossbows. The top five counties with the most archery and crossbow black bear harvests in 2022 were Preston with 46, Fayette with 45, Randolph with 26, Barbour and McDowell with 24, and Boone and Webster with 20.
Hunters harvested 1,206 bears with firearms in 2022. Hunters harvested 213 bears in September and October, including 28 bears during the concurrent antlerless deer and bear seasons, and one during the youth, class Q/QQ, XS season.
Hunters harvested 289 bears during the concurrent buck firearms and bear season and 702 during the traditional December season. Two bears were harvested with a muzzleloader during the state’s fifth Mountaineer Heritage Season in January 2023. The top five counties with the most firearms black bear harvests were Boone with 132, Nicholas with 119, Fayette with 118, Pocahontas with 101, and Randolph with 100.
For more information about hunting seasons in West Virginia or to purchase a hunting license, visit WVDNR.gov.