Tioga County leads state in bear harvest

The first day of rifle black bear season resulted in a preliminary harvest of 1,320 bears, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission, down from last year’s first day number of 1,530 bruins.

Lycoming County claimed the top bear harvest county in the state on the first day with 105 and Tioga, the top bear harvest county in the first two days with 154.

After two days of the four-day statewide bear season which began Saturday, a preliminary harvest of 2,044 black bears has been reported, also down from last year’s 2,086.

The commission reported two-day harvests by county in the Northcentral Region: Tioga, 154; Lycoming, 138; Potter, 98; Clearfield, 97; Clinton, 96; Cameron, 92; Elk, 79; Centre, 69; McKean, 53; and Union, 23.

The overall harvest at the end of the season last year was 3,632 bears – the third-largest harvest in state history.

The largest harvest – 4,350 bears – happened in 2011, when preliminary two-day totals numbered 2,709 and first-day totals numbered 1,936.

As of Tuesday, bears were harvested in 51 counties during this year’s statewide season.

The top 10 bears processed at check stations by Monday were either estimated or confirmed to have live weights of 556 pounds or more.

The largest of those bears – a male estimated at 772 pounds – was taken in Covington Township, Lackawanna County, by Daniel J. Beavers of Covington Township.

Other large bears taken include:

632-pound male taken by Michael L. Truax of Everett, in East Providence Township, Bedford County

627-pound male taken by Wayne A. Gehers of Mohnton, in Bloss Township, Tioga County.

616-pounder taken by Bradley S. Rohrer of Lancaster, in Union Township, Tioga County.

597-pounder taken by Jenna L. Schoenagel of Greentown, in Greene Township, Pike County.

595-pounder taken by Maurice C. Younker of Mercersburg, in Thompson Township, Fulton County.

586-pounder taken by Jalynn N. Macnelley of Laceyville, in Wilmot Township, Bradford County.

560-pounder taken by Ernest W. Lucrezi of Beachlake, in Berlin Township, Wayne County.

557-pounder taken by Ronald P. Fitzgerald of Forksville, in Elkland Township, Sullivan County.

556-pounder taken by Randy L. Klem of Mountaintop in Rice Township, Luzerne County.

A growing bear population, which now numbers 16,000 to 18,000, and expanded hunting opportunities in recent years have contributed to the large harvests and the combination has helped to create a sweet spot in time for in-state bear hunting, said Mark Ternent, bear biologist for the Pennsylvania Game Commission.

“In Pennsylvania’s history, there’s never been a better time to hunt bears,” Ternent said. “Nowadays it’s getting increasingly harder to identify our so-called best bear hunting counties, because opportunities are becoming increasingly better throughout so much of the state.”

In 2012, for example, hunters harvested bears in 56 of the state’s 67 counties, and Pennsylvania routinely has been seeing harvests in 50 counties or more. Bear-hunting success across the state is something Ternent said simply wasn’t possible 30 years ago, when bear populations were more concentrated in core areas of northcentral and northeastern Pennsylvania.

This expanded range has many Pennsylvanians reclassifying what they consider “bear country” and where they might choose to hunt.

“It’s not a case where there are only a few areas where a hunter might get close to a bear,” Ternent said. “That opportunity exists throughout much of the state, and in areas some might not expect.”

In addition to participating in the closing day of the four-day season Wednesday, hunters with an unfilled bear license may participate in extended bear seasons in specific Wildlife Management Units that run concurrent with all or portions of the first week of the firearms deer season.

For those deer hunters who didn’t purchase a bear license, but are headed to an area where the extended bear season is being held, bear license sales will reopen through Dec. 1.