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Bear season has chance to be historic

Bob Frye
| Saturday, Nov. 11, 2017, 5:42 p.m.
Pennsylvania is home to lots of black bears, many of them of record book size. Pennsylvania ranks second among all states and Canadian provinces in the number of bears in the Boone and Crockett Club record books.
Pennsylvania is home to lots of black bears, many of them of record book size. Pennsylvania ranks second among all states and Canadian provinces in the number of bears in the Boone and Crockett Club record books.

It's not exactly a good news, bad news kind of thing with Pennsylvania black bears.

There are plenty of black bears out there, too. The Pennsylvania Game Commission believes the population hovers around 20,000 for a third straight year.

Having a lot of it out there — from acorns to apples — is good for black bears, said Mark Ternent, a commission biologist. It allows them to pack weight on before winter.

Travis Lau, communications coordinator for the commission, told of one camp that killed 25 bears last year across the various bear seasons. The hunters move across various counties, following the bear sign.

“So this food situation might make it tough.”

The bears are there, and the hunters are, too. License sales figures show the state is on pace to have between 170,000 and 175,000 hunters, which will be close to the record. That was 175,314 in 2015.

Too much weather of the wrong kind can have the opposite effect.

Conditions were OK weather-wise last fall, if not great. Yet hunters still killed 3,529 bears.

As for where hunters might find bears this fall, there are possibilities all over.

Both will remain productive, Ternent said.

Unit 3D has an estimated 1.36 bears per square mile, in terms of population. Unit 2G has an estimated 1.29.

“The growth in the population has been most notable on the periphery,” he said. “There are probably good opportunities to hunt bears close to home, no matter where you live in Pennsylvania.”

“We just need the hunters,” he said.

Hunters took 60 bears topping 500 pounds last year. The largest was taken by Dusty Learn of Home in Indiana County. He harvested a 740-pound bear at 7 yards with bow-and-arrow.

“Pennsylvania bear hunters have already taken a few 800 pounders, and since there's been no decline in bear health or body weights in recent years, the odds remain good for it to happen again,” Ternent said.

Bob Frye is the editor. Reach him at 412-216-0193 or See other stories, blogs, videos and more at

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