In their next to final bear harvest report, the Pennsylvania Game Commission said Pennsylvania hunters set an all-time bear harvest this season.
During the final day of Pennsylvania’s statewide bear season, hunters took 565 bears, raising the 2019 statewide general-season harvest to 2,063.
That adds to an early season harvest of 1,335, which increases the 2019 total bear harvest to 3,398, not including the extended bear season that kicked off this past Saturday in 16 Wildlife Management Units.
However, none of the bears taken on the final day of the statewide season cracked the Top 10 list for heaviest bears.
The largest bear through all 2019 seasons continues to be the 813-pound male taken with a rifle on the opening day of the general season in Smithfield Township, Monroe County, by Victor M. Vassalluzzo, of Kintnersville.
Other large bears taken in the 2019 general season – all taken with a rifle – include: a 747-pound male taken in Wright Township, Luzerne County, by J. Kripp Jr., of Mountaintop; a 696-pound male taken in Penn Forest Township, Carbon County, by Brian J. Borosh, of Jim Thorpe; a 657-pound male taken in Franklin Township, Columbia County, by Nicholas A. Podgurski, of Elysburg; a 656-pound male taken in Hanover Township, Luzerne County, by Dale J. Kobal, of Hunlock Creek; a 623-pound male taken in Beech Creek Township, Clinton County, by Mikael J. Catanese, of Sewickley; a 620-pound male taken in Miles Township, Centre County, by Reuben Kennel, of Turbotville; and a 604-pound male taken in Gallagher Township, Clinton County, by Steven Z. Rohrbach, of Lock Haven.
The top bear-hunting county in the state over the general season was Lycoming County with 136 bears. It was followed by Tioga County with 131 bears.
Locally in the Southeast Region, the tally is as follows:
Schuylkill County, 75; Dauphin, 66; Northampton, 15; Lebanon, 2; Berks, 17; and Lehigh 4.
Expanded hunting opportunities provided by new special-firearms and muzzleloader bear seasons and an expanded archery bear season, have helped increase the 2019 bear harvest. Record bear license sales also have contributed. License sales currently exceed 200,000 which previously have held at highs between 170,000 and 175,000. And the statewide bear population at the start of the bear-hunting seasons was about 20,000 bears.
“It’s the largest suite of bear-season changes ever approved in a single year,” explained Matt Lovallo, agency Game Mammals Section supervisor. “In most of the state, we’re going from 14 or 16 days of bear hunting to 32, and from three Saturdays to seven. As such we started hunting bears almost two weeks earlier.”
The additional days and increased number of bear hunters appear to have made a significant difference. Great weather on peak hunting days also helped.
The final bear harvest numbers will most likely be available in February 2020, but they shouldn’t increase significantly.
Nick Hromiak has been an outdoors and automotive writer for over 30 years. He's been published in numerous national and state-wide outdoor magazines and newspapers.