WVDNR says 2022 black bear harvest down 37% from previous year

BECKLEY, W.Va. — Hunters in West Virginia harvested 1,727 black bears during the combined 2022 archery, crossbow and firearms seasons, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources announced on Thursday. The preliminary harvest for the combined 2022 seasons is 37 percent below the 2,756 bears killed in 2021.

Hunters killed 521 bears during the first segment of the 2022 archery/crossbow season (Sept. 24 – Nov. 20). Hunters harvested 250 bears with vertical bows and 271 with crossbows. The top five counties with the most archery/crossbow black bear harvests in 2022 were Preston (46), Fayette (45), Randolph (26), Barbour and McDowell (24), and Boone and Webster (20).

Hunters harvested 1,206 bears with a firearm in 2022. Hunters harvested 213 bears in September and October (28 bears during the concurrent antlerless deer/bear season, one during the youth, class Q/QQ, XS season). Hunters harvested 289 bears during the concurrent buck firearms/bear season and 702 during the traditional December season. Two bears were harvested with a muzzleloader during the state’s fifth Mountaineer Heritage Season in January 2023. The top five counties with the most firearms black bear harvests were Boone (132), Nicholas (119), Fayette (118), Pocahontas (101) and Randolph (100).

Click here to download a county-by-county breakdown of West Virginia’s 2022 black bear harvest numbers.

Factors Contributing to Black Bear Harvest Decrease
According to Colin Carpenter, black bear project leader for the WVDNR, hunters harvested fewer black bears in the combined 2022 seasons compared to previous years for several reasons.

“We predicted a lower bear harvest in 2022 based on a number of factors, including mast conditions and more restrictive hunting opportunities that were put in place to achieve management objectives,” Carpenter said.

More conservative hunting seasons took place in all or parts of 15 eastern mountain counties where the WVDNR has successfully reduced the bear population over the last 13 years. To reduce the bear population in those counties, the WVDNR allowed more hunting days over the last decade.

Poor mast conditions also caused bears to return to their dens early in the season and made them less available to hunters. There also were 25 fewer days of bear hunting with or without dogs from September to November and the concurrent buck-gun and bear season was removed from all or parts of 15 counties.

The statewide mast index for all species combined in 2022 was down 22 percent compared to 2021. The best hard mast production in 2022 was recorded for white oak (up 137 percent) and chestnut oak (up 52 percent). Mast production for all other monitored species, except scrub oak and sassafras, decreased significantly in 2022. The 2022 Mast Survey and Hunting Outlook predicted a lower archery/crossbow harvest compared to 2021 and a decreased firearms harvest over the levels observed in 2021. Both predictions were correct.

For more information about hunting seasons in West Virginia or to purchase a hunting license, visit WVdnr.gov.

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