PA bear population decreased, less harvested during hunting season

Cole Schnably harvested the fifth heaviest bear in Pennsylvania in 2022 and he did it the hard way, with a long bow. It weighed 681 pounds and was arrowed on Buchanan State Forest in Bedford County.

Cole Schnably harvested the fifth heaviest bear in Pennsylvania in 2022, and he did so the hard way, with a long bow.  It weighed 681 pounds and was shot through the Buchanan State Forest in Bedford County.

Cole Schnably harvested the fifth heaviest bear in Pennsylvania in 2022, and he did so the exhausting approach, with an extended bow. It weighed 681 kilos and was shot by way of the Buchanan State Forest in Bedford County.

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Pennsylvania’s black bear inhabitants peaked about 4 years in the past, with an estimated greater than 20,000 bears, and remained that approach till 2020, when it started to say no. This 12 months, the Pennsylvania Gaming Fee has predicted lower than 16,000 months within the state.

I arrived on the new Middle County bear management station on day two of the season, hoping to see bears shot by hunters and interview them. I used to be disenchanted. Simply after the station opened that Sunday morning, biologists checked a bear that had been killed on Saturday, after which there have been no different bears all day. The Huntingdon management station recorded solely 10 months. On opening day, the outcomes weren’t any higher.

“We placed on a bleak present for the opening day of rifle bear season, particularly given the great climate circumstances, some snow, gentle winds, and the absence of icy roads in most locations,” stated south heart biologist Justin Vreeland. “Nonetheless, we solely checked 28 months all day – at the least the second month since my data began in 2003. I believe that is pushed by poor pole circumstances and an absence of hunter effort.”

Vreeland reported that Mifflin County totaled simply three months complete on its opening weekend, with Snyder County zero and Adams County one. Thankfully, hunters within the conventional north-central and northeastern bear vary had been extra profitable, however not by a lot.

Clinton County dropped from its common primary or two slot to ninth. The middle really carried out higher than common – producing 122 bears on this low harvest 12 months, placing it in fifth place – forward of the standard eighth to twelfth row.

In accordance with preliminary figures from the Pennsylvania Gaming Fee, just one,048 months had been collected through the four-day common firearms season. This included 658 shot at opening Saturday, 197 on Sunday, and 193 over the past two days. That compares to 1,314 photographs in 2021, 1,167 in 2020, and 1,611 photographs in 2019.

The primary seasons – muzzleloader and archery – noticed an excellent harvest. Nevertheless, the prolonged season harvest additionally declined. Hunters solely counted 666, though it was estimated that there have been between 800 and 1,000 bears.

When the state’s bear inhabitants was estimated at 18,000, I discovered the next excerpt from a information launch: “The size and timing of looking seasons is set in order that populations with extra human-bear battle are diminished or stabilized, whereas areas with much less battle are allowed to extend.” Subsequently, the statewide inhabitants rose to twenty,000.

Is PGC now making an attempt to drastically cut back the inhabitants?

There have been a variety of modifications not too long ago that may be interpreted as geared toward lowering the inhabitants. In 2019, the archery season doubled from one week to 2 weeks. The primary statewide 7-day muzzle bear season was additionally held in the identical 12 months, with greater than 1,300 bears collected in comparison with 12 within the extra geographically restricted 2018 muzzle-loading season. Mark Ternent was the PGC bear biologist on the time, and I spoke to him shortly after the muzzleloader season ended that 12 months. He appeared within the excessive muzzleloader harvest.

Each of those season modifications are vital for 2 causes. One – seasons are statewide quite than concentrating on particular areas with greater populations. And two – each happen earlier than feminine bears who’re pregnant or have cubs land. What does the company’s Bear Program Specialist Emily Carrollo assume?

Carrollo was a visitor on the Pennsylvania Outside Writers Affiliation Zoom assembly a number of months in the past. He shared that the share of feminine bears within the harvest has elevated. After I requested him if he was involved in regards to the decline within the bear inhabitants and the rise within the variety of feminine bears harvested, Carrollo replied that he was not involved in regards to the present bear inhabitants. He added that if they need the fee to develop, they know tips on how to do it.

Pennsylvania’s estimated bear inhabitants has declined by greater than 3,000 bears (about 16%) since peak and should decline additional after this season. My query, which I believe is honest, is: What does the Pennsylvania Gaming Fee need the inhabitants to be? Carrollo all the time responded rapidly to my questions and supplied the required data. Nevertheless, I requested him this query in early December and have but to obtain a solution.

Most bear hunters and wildlife watchers love excessive bear populations, however bears injury agricultural crops, beehives, orchards, and assault chook feeders. Bears are additionally one of many greatest predators of white-tailed fawns.

Relaxation assured, the restoration of black bear numbers in Pennsylvania has been a wildlife administration success story. Pennsylvania was residence to fewer than 5,000 bears within the Nineteen Seventies, principally situated in a number of dozen counties. So, by comparability, a inhabitants of 15,700 unfold over 60 counties is nice.

It isn’t for me to say how giant the bear inhabitants needs to be. I simply assume that the Fee ought to have the ability to inform us truthfully in regards to the administration goal and clarify why.

In January, commissioners will pre-confirm seasons and bag limits for the 2023-24 looking season. What commissioners have confirmed shall be a transparent indication of whether or not they need the bear inhabitants to proceed its decline or get well. It is going to be attention-grabbing to see.

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