West Virginia hunters harvest 3,012 black bears in 2016

SOUTH CHARLESTON, W.Va. – West Virginia hunters harvested 3,012 black bears during the combined 2016 archery, crossbow and firearms seasons, according to Colin Carpenter, Black Bear Project leader for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

The preliminary black bear harvest data for the combined 2016 seasons were 6 percent lower than the record set in 2015. The harvest is the second highest bear kill recorded and is the second time the harvest has topped 3,000.

“The mast index for all oak species in 2016 increased significantly over 2015 and was above the long-term average,” said Carpenter. “Historically, an abundance of oak mast makes bears harder to target for archery hunters. Conversely, increased oak mast typically means a higher December firearms harvest because many bears delay entering their dens due to the abundance of food.”

Carpenter added, “In the 2016 Mast Survey and Hunting Outlook, we predicted a decreased archery harvest and a similar-to-slightly greater December firearms harvest over the levels observed in 2015. Our prediction held true for the archery season, but did not hold up in the December season.”

“Overall, the 2016 harvest declined during the archery, buck-gun and December seasons over the levels recorded in 2015. However, those decreases were partially offset by very successful early gun seasons in September and October.

Hunters killed 1,012 bears during the first segment of the 2016 archery season (Sept. 24 – Nov. 19). They took 584 bears with vertical bows and 428 with crossbows. The top five counties were Randolph (82), Fayette (74), Nicholas (60), Greenbrier (55) and Preston (52).

Firearms hunters harvested 2,000 bears during 2016. Hunters took 883 bears in September and October, 349 during the concurrent buck-gun bear season, and 768 during the traditional December season. The top five counties were Pendleton (177), Randolph (167), Pocahontas (161), Nicholas (153) and Hardy (133).