State bear harvest up in 2021, with largest animal taken in southcentral Pennsylvania

Black bear.

Pennsylvania bear hunters enjoyed a successful year year in 2021.

They took 3,659 bears across last year’s various seasons. That ranks as the state’s fifth-best harvest ever and the second-largest recorded since 2011.

The 2020 bear harvest, for comparison’s sake, was 3,621.

The largest bear in the state was taken in southcentral Pennsylvania.

The statewide regular bear season accounted for the largest part of the 2021 bear harvest. 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 — contributed 1,128 animals to the harvest. The archery bear season added another 680, while the muzzleloader/special firearms bear season harvest was 536.

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Pennsylvania hunters recorded their all-time best bear season in 2019, when they harvested 4,653. That was the third time since 2005 that the harvest topped 4,000 animals. The others were 2011 (4,350) and 2005 (4,162).

A total of 215,219 people — 205,812 of them state residents — bought bear licenses in 2021. That was down slightly from 220,471 in 2020, but still the second-highest number of bear licenses ever sold in any one year. Sales totaled 202,043 in 2019, 174,869 in 2018 and, going back further, 147,728 in 2009.

Bears were taken in 59 of 67 counties and 22 of Pennsylvania’s 23 Wildlife Management Units in the 2021 seasons.

Big bears: The largest bear reported is the 722-pound male taken in southcentral Pennsylvania with a shotgun in the extended season, on Dec. 4. It was taken in Letterkenny Township in Franklin County, by Wade Glessner, of Shippensburg. The drive from York to Letterkenny Township is about 50 miles.

The heaviest bear ever taken in Pennsylvania was an 875-pounder harvested in 2010 in Middle Smithfield Township, Pike County. Since 1992, seven black bears weighing at least 800 pounds have been lawfully harvested in Pennsylvania hunting seasons.

Other large bears from the 2021 bear seasons, all but one taken with a rifle, include: 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; and a 602-pound male taken in the regular season in Beech Creek Township, Clinton County, by Jacob Rembold, of Lock Haven.

Lycoming is top bear county: 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). 

Following are the county totals for the Southcentral and Southeast regions. The first number is this year's total and the number in parenthesis is last year's total:

Southcentral – 464 (419): Huntingdon, 115 (91); Bedford, 82 (82); Mifflin, 55 (30); Fulton, 47 (51); Perry, 42 (36); Blair, 39 (29); Juniata, 36 (35); Franklin, 17 (31); Snyder, 12 (20); Adams, 10 (7); Cumberland, 8 (6); and York, 1 (0).

Southeast – 156 (169): Schuylkill, 61 (78); Dauphin, 54 (37); Northampton, 13 (23); Berks, 12 (15); Lebanon, 8 (9); Lehigh, 6 (7); and Bucks, 2 (0).

Information for this story was provided by the Pennsylvania Game Commission.