WVDNR: Black bear harvest numbers in 2022 down almost 40%

Published: Feb. 3, 2023 at 2:45 PM EST
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BECKLEY, W.Va (WDTV) - Despite hunters harvesting over 1,700 black bears in 2022, the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources said that is almost 40% less than the number of bears killed in 2021.

In 2021, a total of 2,756 bears were killed.

The WVDNR said hunters killed 521 bears during the first segment of the 2022 archery/crossbow season, 250 bears with vertical bows and 271 with crossbows.

The following were the top counties with the most archery/crossbow black bear harvests in 2022:

  • Preston - 46
  • Fayette - 45
  • Randolph - 26
  • Barbour - 24
  • McDowell - 24
  • Boone - 20
  • Webster - 20

Hunters harvested 1,206 bears with a firearm in 2022, WVDNR officials said.

The top five counties with the most firearms black bear harvests were the following:

  • Boone - 132
  • Nicholas - 119
  • Fayette - 118
  • Pocahontas - 101
  • Randolph - 100

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, officials said.

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.