The final 2015 bear harvest figures are in and the Pennsylvania Game Commission (PGC) has announced that it ranks as the third all-time highest harvest. And with a total of 3,748 bears taken in 2015, a whopping 68 percent of them topped the 500-pound mark.
This total surpassed the 2014 total of 3,371. The PGC says that with the 2015 harvest, it shows that the eighth largest bear harvests occurred in the past decade.
When releasing these numbers, the PGC goes on to say that during the 2015 bear season, hunters took bears in 57 of Pennsylvania’s 67 counties, an increase compared to 2014 when bears were harvested in 56 counties. Additionally, bears were taken in 20 of the state’s 23 Wildlife Management Units (WMUs). And, each of the agencies six regions saw a larger harvest in 2015 compared to 2014. Of these regions, 18 bears in 2015 topped 600 pounds.
Interestingly, two bears tied for heaviest, as each weighed an estimated 713 pounds. The first was taken on Nov. 21 in Blair Township, Blair County by Richard Watt of Gallitizen, PA, while the second was shot Nov. 23 in Granville Township, Mifflin County by Greg Wilson of Lewistown, PA.
Other heavy bears included an estimated 685-pound male taken Nov. 21 in Letterkenny Township, Franklin County by Dustin Foust of Orrstown, PA; a 652-pound male taken in Todd Township, Fulton County shot on the Nov. 16 during the statewide archery bear season by Garry Miller Jr. of McConnellsburg, PA; a 649-pound male shot in Limestone Township, Warren County by Matt Stanga of Tarentum, PA; a 648-pound male in Brush Creek Township, Fulton County by Andrew Fischer of Crystal Spring, PA; a 640-pound male in Weatherly Township, Carbon County taken by Ken Mehlig, Weatherly, PA; a 632-pound male taken Nov. 24 in Worth Township, Centre County by Chad Seeger of Port Matilda, PA; a 631-pound male taken Nov. 25 in Hillsgrove Township, Sullivan County by Skylar Hubler of Dushore, PA; and a 629-pound male taken Nov. 24 in Greene Township, Pike County by John Gulpin of Newfoundland, PA.
Of all the counties within the state, Lycoming has always been one of the tops for bear harvests, and again led the way with 312 bears in 2015, which is up from 286 in 2014. Other top counties in 2015 were Clinton, 265; Tioga, 196; Pike, 180; and Centre, 162. Of these totals, 803 bears were taken in the extended seasons while 209 were taken during the archery bear season. Pike had the distinction of having the highest harvest during the extended season with 56 taken after the close of the general bear season.
These numbers afford hunters, who didn’t score, an opportunity to seek out one of these high harvest townships in which to try their luck. What is especially impressive is the number of archery shot bears. Just a few years ago there was no archery season and these harvest figures prove it can be done with bow and arrow.
Locally here in the Southeast Region there were 123 total bears taken in these counties: Dauphin, 95 (35 in 2014); Schuylkill, 45 (39); Northampton, 13 (9); Lebanon, 5 (2); Berks, 3 (6); Lehigh, 3 (4); and Bucks, 1 (0). This was from a statewide bear population estimated to be 18,000 animals. And in 2015, a record number of 175,314 bear licenses were sold.
At the various 2015 bear harvest check stations set up within the commonwealth, PGC officers checked 900 bears statewide. This indicates that the bear population, says the PGC, is stable and continues to grow.