FRANKLIN COUNTY, Pa. — Pennsylvania hunters harvested the fifth-highest number of bears in commonwealth history in 2021, according to statistics released Monday by the state Game Commission.
A total of 3,659 bears were taken across last year's various seasons, the Game Commission said. That's the second-largest total recorded since 2011, and the fifth-highest ever, according to the Game Commission.
In 2020, there were 3,621 bears taken, according to Game Commission statistics.
The record total harvest was set in 2019, when 4,653 bears were taken, according to the Game Commission.
The largest bear reported in 2021 was a 722-pound male, taken with a shotgun during extended bear season in Franklin County, the Game Commission said. Wade Glessner, of Shippensburg, harvested the bear in Letterkenny Township.
The Pennsylvania record for heaviest bear ever harvested was set in 2010, when a hunter took an 875-pound bear in Pike County. Since 1992, seven black bears weighing at least 800 pounds have been lawfully harvested in Pennsylvania hunting seasons, according to the Game Commission.
The statewide regular bear season accounted for the largest part of the 2021 bear harvest, according to the Game Commission. Hunters took 1,315 bears in that four-day hunt.
The extended bear season – which last year for the first time allowed hunters to harvest bears throughout the opening weekend of deer season in some Wildlife Management Units (WMUs) – contributed 1,128 animals to the harvest, the Game Commission said.
The archery bear season added another 680 bears, while the muzzleloader/special firearms bear season harvest was 536.
That Pennsylvania continues to produce so many bears across so many seasons, year after year, speaks to the health of the state’s bear population, said Emily Carrollo, the Game Commission’s black bear biologist.
“Pennsylvania has a long history of supporting a lot of black bears, many of truly impressive size, across most of the state,” Carrollo said. “Best of all, the future continues to look bright for this resource, too.”
A total of 215,219 people bought bear hunting licenses last year, according to the Game Commission. Of that number, 205,812 were Pennsylvania residents.
That represents a slight drop from the number of bear licenses sold in 2020, when a record 220,471 people bought licenses, according to the Game Commission. But the 2021 total was still the second-highest number ever sold in one year.
“Pennsylvania has been a popular bear hunting destination for years, and I don’t expect that to change anytime soon,” Carrollo said.
The Game Commission said bears were harvested in 59 of 67 Pennsylvania counties, and in 22 of the commonwealth's 23 Wildlife Management Units.
In addition to Glessner's 722-pound bear harvested in Franklin County, there were nine bears that tipped the scales at over 600 pounds taken last year, according to the Game Commission.
Those bears were:
- a 681-pound male taken with a bow in archery season in Newport Township, Luzerne County, by Neil Minnich of Nanticoke
- a 676-pound male taken in the regular statewide season in West Franklin Township, Armstrong County, by Paul Skanderson, of Freeport
- a 649-pound make taken in the extended season in Spring Township, Snyder County, by Ashton McIlroy, of McClure
- a 640-pound male taken in the regular season in Pike Township, Clearfield County, by Brandon Knee, of Houtzdale
- a 640-pound male taken in the extended season in Gamble Township, Lycoming County, by Matthew Aikey, of Trout Run
- a 615-pound male taken in the extended season in Penn Forest Township, Carbon County, by Ryan Hausman, of Jim Thorpe
- a 614-pound male taken in the extended season in Lehmen Township, Pike County, by Matthew Romig, of Bethlehem
- a 605-pound male taken in the regular season in Bradford Township, Clearfield County, by Storm Bumbarger, of Woodland
- a 602-pound male taken in the regular season in Beech Creek Township, Clinton County, by Jacob Rembold, of Lock Haven
Lycoming County gave up 212 bears to rank first among counties for bear harvest. Potter County ranked second with 180, Pike County third with 167, Tioga County fourth with 166 and Clinton County fifth with 156.
Rounding out the top 10 were Bradford County (136), Sullivan County (127), Wayne County (120), Centre County (118), and Huntingdon County (115).
In Central Pennsylvania, there were 55 bears harvested in Mifflin County, 42 harvested in Perry County, 36 taken in Juniata County, 17 in Franklin County, eight in Cumberland County, eight in Lebanon County, and one in York County, according to Game Commission statistics.