Hunters took more than 3,500 black bears in Pennsylvania during 2016, making it one of the most productive years ever.
Three bears were the first since 2013 to exceed 700 pounds, according to the Pennsylvania Game Commission. Sixty bears weighed 500 pounds or more, and 17 exceeded 600 pounds.
The Game Commission recently completed its official tally of the 2016 bear season harvest, the fifth highest in state history. The all-time high was 4,350 bears in 2011, when eight of the bears weighed more than 700 pounds. Hunters took 4,164 bears in 2005.
All of Pennsylvania's top 10 bear harvests have come since 2004. Game Commission records date to 1915.
Pennsylvania hunters shot 3,529 bears in 2016, similar to 2015, when 3,748 bears, including 68 weighing 500 pounds or more, were taken.
Hunters shot 22 bears in Franklin County, down from 26 in 2015. The harvest also was down in Cumberland and Fulton counties.
Lycoming County finished with 243 bears to take the top county bear harvest in 2016. Clinton County followed with 220. Other top counties were: Tioga, 169; Potter, 149; Warren, 131; and Somerset, 116. Hunters in 2016 harvested bears in 58 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, an increase of one county compared to 2015.
The largest bear taken in the 2016 harvest weighed an estimated 740 pounds. Dustin R. Learn of Home shot the bear on Nov. 18 during the archery bear season in Rayne Township, Indiana County.
David Price of Cresco took the largest bear ever taken in the state during the archery bear season opener in 2010. The 876 pounder was shot in Middle Smithfield Township, Monroe County.
The two other 700 pounders taken in 2016 were a 722-pound male taken Dec. 2 in Lehman Township, Pike County by Bryan R. Diehl of Northampton and a 700-pound male taken Nov. 19 in Barrett Township, Monroe County, by Chad D. Nauman of Cresco.
“Our bears are so big, and so plentiful, it’s hard not to get excited about hunting for them,” Game Commission Executive Director R. Matthew Hough said. “Many deer and turkey hunters have become Pennsylvania bear hunters because of the bears and bear sign they see while afield. It’s a pursuit with undeniable excitement and huge rewards.”
The Game Commission estimated the bear population before bear hunting seasons to be about 20,000. Prior to 2015, the bear population was stabilized at 18,000 for about six years.
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