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VDGIF reports highest-ever bear kill numbers in ‘14

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This is the second of three in a series reviewing 2014 big game hunting results.

By Staff Reports

RICHMOND –– While Virginia deer and turkey harvests reflected a decline from last year, the black bear harvest shows record numbers as the Virginia Department of Game and Inland Fisheries (VDGIF) released its harvest numbers for the fall/winter hunting season.

 

Black Bear

 

A total of 2,405 bears were harvested in Virginia during the 2014-15 bear hunting seasons.  Representing the combined kill from youth/apprentice, archery, muzzleloader, and firearms hunters, the 2014-15 harvest was a four-percent increase over last year’s initial reported kill of 2,312 bears and is highest recorded bear harvest to date.

The youth/apprentice day resulted in the harvest of 109 bears, only one fewer than taken in 2013.  Similar to last season, the majority of bears harvested on  the youth/apprentice day were west of the Blue Ridge, with more bears harvested by hound hunting youth and apprentice hunters (62)  than still hunters (47).

Mast conditions greatly influence the distribution of harvest among hunting seasons.  Years with poor mast production typically result in archery harvests that make up a greater proportion of the total harvest compared to years with good mast production.  The fall of 2014 was one of the best years on record for mast production in Virginia compared to 2013, which was one of the worst years for fall mast production. The archery harvest (423) and muzzleloader harvest (370) decreased by 40 percent and 10 percent, respectively, while the firearms season harvest of 1,503 increased by approximately 40 percent over the 2013 harvest.

The largest proportion of bears, 970, was taken by hound hunters.

Although bears were harvested in 76 counties and cities throughout Virginia, most of the harvest – 68 percent – occurred west of the Blue Ridge.  Almost 64 percent of the archery harvest and 63% of the muzzleloader harvest were also in this region. The overall percent of females in the harvest – 38 percent – was lower than previous years, and unlike all other years, archery hunters harvested the lowest proportion of females.

The first year of Sunday hunting resulted in the harvest of 119 bears, or about five percent of the total harvest, the majority of which were taken in the archery season.

Due to its efficacy, tradition, effectiveness and recreational value, regulated hunting is the primary bear population management option in Virginia, and bear harvest seasons and regulations are structured to meet the goals and objectives in the Black Bear Management Plan.