Bear season kicks off with low opening numbers in region

After two days of hunting, the statewide bear season continues in what the state Game Commission is saying is slower than previous years.

The commission released preliminary results from Saturday, the season opener, on Monday.

It was clocking a total of 659 harvested bears in 49 counties with the top 10 bears having live weights of 535 pounds or more.

Tioga County topped this year’s opener with a total of 58 bears harvested. Lycoming County reported 47.

Lycoming County has since passed Pike County with 87 reported bruins to date. Tioga still takes first with 105, as of Monday afternoon.

The largest was a male bear estimated at 700 pounds taken in Venango County.

Although none of the top 10 bruins was taken in Lycoming County, a 595-pound bear was taken by Zachery L. Martin, of Wellsboro, in Charleston Township, Tioga County.

The commission said first-day harvests are down compared to the 1,297 bears taken during last year’s opener.

Hunters in 2015 harvested 1,508 bears on the opening day.

The overall 2016 bear harvest was 3,529. It was the fifth largest is state history.

The largest harvest was 4,350 bears in 2011 when preliminary first-day totals numbered 1,936.

Hunters, commission officers and biologists were at both Lycoming County weigh stations again Monday.

They begin each day at the Trout Run Fire Hall at 10 a.m., said Tony Ross, regional biologist with the commission.

On Saturday, they stayed until about 9 p.m. They’ll be there until 9 p.m. tonight and until 6 p.m. Tuesday.

When a Sun-Gazette reporter visited the spot Monday afternoon, only one bear had come through. But Ross said they were expecting more.

“I’m hoping for at least 10 more by tonight,” Ross said. “But it’s hard to say how the days will end.”

The evening hours tend to be their busiest time. “And, of course, Saturday tends to be our busiest day,” Ross said.

But this year has been slower in Trout Run and at other weigh stations in the region. Ross said it’s likely because of the rainy weekend weather.

“It was rainy, windy and foggy,” Ross said. “It was just a bad day for people to be out and that’s usually the day when most people have some time off to actually get out.”

The commission keeps updated numbers throughout the regular rifle season for bear.

According to that site, 1,280 bears were harvested during the two full days of rifle season as of Monday night.

The average weight of a harvested Pennsylvania black bear is about 158 pounds. The average was clocking in a bit lower than that Monday.

The average time of harvest for both Saturday and Monday was between 8 a.m. and 9 a.m. The season continues until Wednesday.