Bear hunters set a new record in Pennsylvania last year by harvesting 4,350 of the animals. The steady increase is a testament to the Keystone State's natural bounty and a tribute to the good management practices of the Pennsylvania Game Commission.
Hunters took 3,015 black bears in 2000, 4,165 in 2005 and last year the record-setting 4,350. Pocono Lake hunter Joseph C. Colyer bagged 2011's largest bear during last November's archery season right here in the Poconos. It weighed in at an impressive 767 pounds, and was killed in Tobyhanna.
Bear harvests depend on a variety of factors, from the number of licensed hunters to weather. Last year, too, the season was a day longer, including a Saturday and then Monday through Wednesday in November.
Pennsylvania's bear population has soared and expanded since the 1970s, when bears mostly lived in the state's northern tier. As the forest for which Pennsylvania was named has matured, bears have enlarged their range. People, too, may be contributing, since as more and more humans move into once rural areas, bears don't always move out. They are smart and highly adaptable, and soon figure out that a garbage can or bird feeder can provide a tasty meal. They get used to humans, sometimes not to their own benefit. One ursine giant dined regularly on table scraps and store-bought sweets, earning the nickname Bozo from the Bushkill man who fed him. A crossbow hunter killed Bozo on the first day of the 2010 season. He weighed nearly 900 pounds.
Bears' adaptability is the main reason the Game Commission expanded the hunting season to four days and, in some areas, such as around Wilkes-Barre with a high number of nuisance calls, allow bear hunting also during certain days of deer season. In recent decades bear populations have grown so large that even record-setting bear harvests don't resolve all the nuisance calls from residents who encounter them in their backyard or even breaking into their porches.
Black bears are beautiful and powerful animals, and Pennsylvanians are lucky to have them in great numbers. Sportsmen can enjoy the hunt, but thousands of bears remain, roaming the woods and neighborhoods often enough to give many residents an occasional glimpse of these magnificent wild creatures.
- Pocono Record