For the first time since the Pennsylvania Game Commission began keeping records in 1949, a hunter has harvested a bear in Allegheny County. The animal was shot in Fawn Township.
Hunters have bagged 2,709 bears in the first two days of the statewide four-day bear season. That is exactly the same number as last year and slightly more than 2005. The bear harvest has been growing in recent years.
"Since the 1980s we have seen our bear population go from about 4,500 to about 18 to 20,000," said Pennsylvania Game Commission spokesperson Jerry Feaser. Bears are now found in more than 50 of Pennsylvania's 67 counties. "It's an incredible wildlife success story," said Feaser.
It is not completely a surprise for the commission that a bear would be taken by a hunter in Allegheny County. Reports of so-called "nuisance bears" have been made in recent years, and the Game Commission has been keeping an eye on how bears and humans interact across the state.
"We're trying to find whether adjusting seasons and bag limits may help address some of the nuisance bear issues, or whether we need to employ other tools," said Feaser. "What we are finding so far is that the bears that have been radio-collared pass through and go into other areas that are more open to hunting."
The top 10 bears processed at check stations, so far, all had estimated live weights that exceeded 629 pounds. The largest tipped the scales at 746 pounds. That animal was shot in Potter County, where hunters killed 247 bears in the first two days of the season.
In southwestern Pennsylvania, Somerset leads the charge with 62 bears harvested, followed by Armstrong, 52; Fayette, 51; Cambria, 25; Westmoreland, 13; and Indiana, 11.
About 160,000 hunters will take part in the bear season this year.