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NY & PA Bear Harvest!

Jack Danchak - Columnist
Posted 3/19/20

New York State's 2019 bear harvest was 1,505, which was higher than the 2018 total of 1,295 and on par with the five-year harvest average of 1,519. In the state's Southern Zone, hunters recorded an …

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NY & PA Bear Harvest!

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New York State's 2019 bear harvest was 1,505, which was higher than the 2018 total of 1,295 and on par with the five-year harvest average of 1,519. In the state's Southern Zone, hunters recorded an all-time record take of 1,179 bears. But in the Northern Zone (due to a lack of food) the bear take was just 326, the lowest total since 2011.

DEC officials stated, “The great success hunters enjoyed in the Southern Zone was a consequence of below average harvest in 2018 due to early snowfall and early denning by bears that year. Hunters were able to capitalize on the availability of more bears in 2019.”

In the Northern Zone, last season (2018), soft mast of cherries, berries and apples along with the hard mast of acorns & beach nuts were abundant and hunters were most successful during the regular season.

DEC officials said, “The overall bear harvest in the Northern Zone also generally follows a high-low pattern from year to year, and the 2019 harvest fit that pattern as a low year.”

DEC biologists say more interest in bear hunting is seen across the state, most bears are taken by deer hunters and that was evident last year, when the highest single-day take (157) occurred on opening day of the Southern Zone firearms deer and bear season.

The heaviest reported bear last season was a 643-pound male taken in Sullivan County and Sullivan County led the state with a total harvest of 207 bear followed by Ulster-157, Delaware-150, Steuben-113 and Orange-89.

In Pennsylvania, Mark Ternent, previously the Game Commission's bear biologist before taking another position within the commission, told board members that the past bear season was historic in many ways. Hunters took a new record-take of 4,653 bears last year and that was just the third time the overall harvest topped 4,000 bears.

Mark Ternent said, “the reason for the large bear take was because of the addition of the extended bear seasons this past year. 2019 was the greatest single year increase we've had at any point since we created the bear-license back in 1981.”

Ternent was asked if there is an optimal number of bears for Pennsylvania to occupy the landscape? He said, “If bears were exceeding the capacity of the landscape to sustain them, it would be reflected negatively in those numbers. And we keep waiting for some tell-tale sign that we are getting close to the threshold of what the habitat can support, which we are not seeing it at this time. So what we have to worry about is how many bears can people tolerate.”

Ternent added, “Right now surveys indicate more than half of Pennsylvania residents want black bear numbers to stay right where they are and for now it looks good for black bears in Pennsylvania.”

jack danchak is the President of the Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs of Sullivan County.

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