West Virginia hunters kill record number of black bears in 2015

Photo courtesy: Alan Vernon
Photo courtesy: Alan Vernon

The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources announced today that the state’s hunters killed a record number of black bear during the combined 2015 archery and firearms seasons.

According to Colin Carpenter, Black Bear project leader for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources, 3,195 black bears were harvested throughout the  Mountain State over the past twelve months, a 17 percent higher number than the previous record set in 2012 (2,735 bears). The black bear harvest of 2015 marks the sixth time in six years that the harvest has topped 2,000.

“In the 2015 Mast Survey and Hunting Outlook brochure, we predicted an increased archery harvest and a decreased December firearms harvest compared to the levels in 2014. Our prediction held true; however, the archery harvest increased a whopping 92 percent, a record, and the December harvest only decreased by 18 percent,” said Carpenter.

“When looking at all mast species combined, 2015 was slightly above the long-term average. However, the oak mast index for 2015 decreased 50 percent over 2014,” stated the project leader. “Historically, a scarcity of oak mast makes bears easier to target for archery hunters. Conversely, decreased oak mast typically means a lower December firearms harvest because many bears have entered their dens as the season progresses.”

According to the release, hunters killed 1,140 bears during the 2015 archery season, including 710 with vertical bows and 430 with crossbows. The top five counties were Nicholas (90), Fayette (86), Wyoming (78), Randolph (74) and Webster (65).

Firearms hunters harvested 2,055 bears during 2015. Hunters took 694 bears in September and October, 490 during the concurrent buck-gun bear season, and 871 during the traditional December season. The top five counties were Randolph (193), Nicholas (176), Pocahontas (171), Greenbrier (168) and Pendleton (160).

The large increase in archery harvest was bolstered by a very successful early firearms season in Logan, McDowell, Mingo and Wyoming counties, according to Carpenter. In addition, the record mild temperatures in December likely kept many bruins active throughout the season and available for hunters.

The preliminary harvest data reveals that the black bear population in West Virginia appears to be at a healthy level and that the outlook for growth is favorable.  Leaders in the Mountain State are continuing to promote the state as a paradise for outdoor enthusiasts — last week, the Division of Natural Resources announced the creation of an Elk Reservation in the counties of Mingo, Logan and Lincoln.

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