West Virginia hunters harvest 2,606 black bears in 2018

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Black Bear

BECKLEY, W.Va. — West Virginia hunters harvested 2,606 black bears during the combined 2018 archery and firearms seasons. The preliminary harvest for the combined 2018 seasons is 18 percent below the 3,160 bears killed in 2017, but is the sixth highest bear kill recorded, according to Colin Carpenter, black bear project leader for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources.

Hunters killed 637 bears during the first segment of the 2018 archery season (Sept. 29 – Nov. 18). Bow hunters killed 374 bears, while crossbow hunters took 263. The top five counties were McDowell (54), Wyoming (49), Fayette (34), Nicholas (33) and Boone (29).

Firearms hunters harvested 1,969 bears during 2018. Hunters took 565 bears in September and October, including 18 bears during the concurrent antlerless deer/bear season. They took 537 bears during the concurrent buck/bear firearms season and 866 during the traditional December season. One bear was killed in Preston County during the first Mountaineer Heritage Season (Jan. 10 – 13, 2019). The top five counties were Pocahontas (166), Randolph (143), Nicholas (142), Pendleton (126) and Webster (125).

In total, hunters in Upshur County harvested 29 bears.

“When looking at all mast species combined, mast production in 2018 was 22 percent below mast production in 2017,” Carpenter said. “In addition, the mast index for all oak species in 2018 was 24 percent below the long-term average. Historically, a scarcity of mast makes bears easier for archers to target, but these conditions encourage earlier denning and makes fewer bears available for hunters during both the buck firearms and December bear firearms seasons.”

Red oak, black oak and scarlet oak production decreased 64 percent from levels recorded in 2017. White oak production was nearly identical to 2017 and 42 percent above the long-term average, while chestnut oak was 10 percent above the long-term average.

“The 2018 Mast Survey and Hunting Outlook predicted an archery harvest similar to 2017 and a decreased December firearms harvest over the levels observed in 2017,” Carpenter said. “The prediction held true for both the archery and December seasons; however, the overall bear harvest was lower than 2017. The 2018 bear harvest declined during the September/October, buck firearms and December seasons, yet increased during the bow/crossbow season.”