After a record bear harvest in 2019 of 4,653 and a harvest in 2020 of 3,608, many PA hunters are concerned that hunters are taking an overharvest of bears and adjustments should be …
After a record bear harvest in 2019 of 4,653 and a harvest in 2020 of 3,608, many PA hunters are concerned that hunters are taking an overharvest of bears and adjustments should be made.
Pennsylvania Game Commission bear biologist Emily Carrollo said although last year's harvest was about 20% lower than 2019 record take, it's similar to the annual average of harvest bears during the last five bear seasons.
Emily went on to say, “I'm happy with it, it's right on par with average. I think it still maintains a good opportunity for bear hunters in Pennsylvania.”
Since the Game Commission significantly expanded the 2019 bear hunting season to give hunters more hunting opportunities which led to the record harvest, Emily said it's difficult to speculate what it means for the bear population after just two years.
In response to concerns that the expanded bear season, coupled with a 4,653 harvest in 2019, would negatively impact the bear population, Emily said such a scenario has yet to occur in prior years. “ In the past, we've had 4,000 plus harvests and the bear population has continued to grow,” she said.
Still, Carrollo is keeping a close watch on Pennsylvania's black bears, including a project examining female vulnerability. With more early bear hunting opportunities than ever before, she wants to know if it is having an effect. “It is absolutely something we need to watch carefully. Female harvest rates affect recruitment, and then we can see bear population declines,” she said.
One of the main reasons for the expansion of the bear population is prime habitat. Habitat is also a factor in Pennsylvania's ability to produce some of the largest bears in this country. The heaviest bear ever taken in PA was a 875-pounder harvested in 2010 in Pike County. Since 1992, seven bears weighing at least 800 pounds have been legally harvested and at least nine other bears have been taken that exceeded 600 pounds. Emily concluded, “It's done consistently every single year. Almost nowhere in this country can you find consistently large bears like we have in PA.”
Dan Wielobob a 67-year old PA. fisherman was all smiles when he recently caught a 4.02 pound 20 inch crappie while ice fishing. The huge crappie turned out to be just 5 ounces shy of beating the Pennsylvania state crappie record set 21 years ago.
Wielobob excitingly commented, “My wife and I had gotten our COVID shots in the morning, and I don't know if it was the shot or what, but I had this extra energy late in the afternoon so I figured, what the heck, I'll head to the lake to fish and stay till dark.”
He definitely made a good decision to go fishing and almost caught a new state crappie record. The moral of this story is, get your COVID shots and who knows your luck may change too.
Jack Danchak is a longtime sportsmen and spent 30 years as the President of the Federation of Sportsmen's Clubs of Sullivan County, Inc.