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West Virginia hunters harvest 3,099 black bears in 2019

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Hunters in West Virginia harvested 3,099 black bears during the combined 2019 archery and firearms seasons. The preliminary harvest for the combined 2019 seasons is 19% above the 2,606 bears killed in 2018. The black bear harvest of 2019 is the third highest bear kill ever recorded. The West Virginia black bear harvest has exceeded 3,000 in four of the last five years.

“When looking at all mast species combined, mast production in 2019 was 12% above mast production in 2018 and 6% above the long–term average,” said Colin Carpenter, DNR black bear project leader. “In addition, the mast index for all oak species in 2019 was up 20% over 2018, but still 8% below the long-term average. Red oak/black oak (+341%), scarlet oak (+228%) and black cherry (+51%) production increased significantly over levels recorded in 2018. White oak (-63%), chestnut oak (-54%) and hickory (-16%) production decreased significantly over 2018 levels.

“Historically, abundant mast yields a decreased bow/crossbow harvest and an increased December firearms harvest. The 2019 Mast Survey and Hunting Outlook predicted an increased bow/crossbow harvest compared to 2018 and a decreased December firearms harvest over the levels observed in 2018 because total mast production was considered average.

“The prediction held true for both the bow/crossbow and December seasons and the overall harvest was much higher than 2018,” Carpenter said. “However, the excellent bow/crossbow harvest and decreased December firearms harvest demonstrated the scattered nature of mast production in 2019. Overall, the 2019 harvest increased during the September/October and bow/crossbow seasons and decreased during the buck-gun and December seasons.”

Hunters killed 966 bears during the first segment of the 2019 bow/crossbow season (Sept. 28 to Nov. 24). Hunters harvested 511 bears with vertical bows, 455 with crossbows. The top five counties were Fayette (106), Nicholas (58), McDowell (55), Webster (48) and Greenbrier (47).

Firearms hunters harvested 2,133 bears during 2019. Hunters took 881 bears in September and October (50 bears during the concurrent antlerless deer/bear season), 498 during the concurrent buck-gun bear season and 754 during the traditional December season. No bears were harvested during the Mountaineer Heritage Season in January. The top five counties were Randolph (201), Pendleton (162), Nicholas (156) and Boone (132).