This season's bear harvest is on pace to be lower than last year's record, but Pennsylvania Game Commission officials aren't too surprised.
Last year's harvest of 4,350 bears was the highest in state history. The figure included bears taken during the archery, regular and extended seasons.
With preliminary numbers in from this year's four-day statewide season, which ran from Nov. 17 to 21, the harvest of 2,639 is less last year's four-day figure of 3,154. The harvest of 2010, which saw 2,815 bears taken during a three-day season, also exceeded this year's total.
Still, Game Commission officials point out that this season's four-day harvest is in line with the average over the last five years and they aren't concerned about not being able to meet management goals.
It's a respectable harvest, said PGC Northeast Region biologist Kevin Wenner. Last year's harvest was really higher than usual.
In the Northeast, the harvest for the four-day regular season was 488 compared to 615 last year. At the Dallas check station, 115 bears were brought in during the regular season, which is slightly less than the 118 checked at Dallas last year in the four-day season.
And even this week, bears continued to come into the check station as several Wildlife Management Units offered an extended bear season during portions of the first week of deer season.
Last year was a record harvest, so you're probably not going to keep pace with a record every year, said Northeast region Information and Education Supervisor Bill Williams.
During the four-day season, the top bear harvest county in the state was Lycoming with 262.The rest of the lineup of the top five counties for bear harvests, so far, are: Clinton, 229; Tioga, 150; Potter, 109; and Centre, 98.
In the Northeast, Pike County leads the way with 70 bears, followed by Luzerne (64), Monroe (60), Wayne (42) and Bradford (38).
Despite lower harvest numbers, there were some interesting trends this bear season. Although final figures have yet to be tabulated, Williams said the archery bear harvest in the Northeast this year will likely be higher than last year. Also, many hunters are taking advantage of the extended season by harvesting bears they encounter while deer hunting in certain WMU's.
Williams said some hunters bought bear licenses just in case they saw a bruin while deer hunting, and that has led to bears being taken in some non-traditional areas.
Hunters who target strictly bears may not hunt some of the areas that deer hunters target, Williams said. But deer hunters are buying a bear license just in case the opportunity arises to shoot a bear, and in many cases it has. They have been coming into the check station pretty steady this week.
Also, Wenner said he wasn't aware of the bears collared for the agency's Urban Bear Study that were harvested this year. In the Wilkes-Barre and Scranton areas, there are 13 bears that were fitted with collars for the study, he said.
Last season, several collared bears were brought to check stations.
Still, there were aspects of the bear season that remained unchanged, such as the Poconos producing some of the largest bears in the 2012 harvest. The heaviest bear was taken by East Stroudsburg resident Joseph A. Spano, who took a male on Nov. 21 in Monroe County with an estimated live weight of 709 pounds.
Wenner said it's no surprise that the Poconos produced some of the largest bears once again.
That's to be expected because the Poconos is full of exceptional habitat, huge swamps with berry-producing plants intermixed with developments that have supplemental food sources, such as bird feeders and dumpsters, he said.
Other large bears (all but one, are estimated live weights) included: a 706-pound male taken by James R. Weisbrod, of Quakertown, in Greene Twp., Pike County, on Nov. 20; a 699-pound male taken by William M. Rising, of Indiana, in Hamlin Twp., McKean County, on Nov. 19; a 652-pound (actual live weight) male taken by Timothy J. Moffett, of Barto, in Middle Smithfield Twp., Monroe County, on Nov. 17; a 620-pound male, taken by Robert A. Pitts, of Meadville, in Roulette Twp., Potter County, on Nov. 17; a 598-pound male, taken by Michael P. Intallura, of Renovo, in Noyes Twp., Clinton County, on Nov. 17; 586-pound male, taken by Brian K. Stuebgen, of Renfrew, in Sergeant Twp., McKean County, on Nov. 19; a 576-pound male, taken by Dana L. Landis, of Chambersburg, in Southampton Twp., Bedford County, on Nov. 19; a 573-pound male taken by Michael J. Kelly, of Pittsburgh, in Harmony Twp., Forest County, on Nov. 21; and a 562-pound male taken by Bryan L. Leabhart, of Dudley, in Carbon Twp., Huntingdon County, on Nov. 19.
Harvest results from the early bear season, including the statewide archery bear season, won't be available until mid-December. Official total bear harvest results will be available in early 2013, after a detailed review of each harvest report is completed. Preliminary bear harvest totals do change occasionally by a few bears. The following is the harvest breakdown for counties in the northeast for the four-day regular season: Pike, 70; Luzerne, 64; Monroe, 60; Wayne, 42; Bradford, 38; Sullivan, 35; Carbon, 32; Wyoming, 26; Lackawanna, 21; Columbia, 19; Susquehanna, 18; and Northumberland, 11.