Pennsylvania’s bear population has been steadily increasing for the past decade and according to Matthew Lovallo, wildlife biologist with the Pennsylvania Game Commission, there were estimated to be between 17,000 and 19,000 black bears in the state prior to this year’s three-day bear hunting season.
“In terms of bear population, we have more bears now than we ever had in Pennsylvania,” Lovallo said.
Lovallo explained that two years ago, the Pennsylvania Game Commission conducted a public opinion survey of Pennsylvania residents asking whether people would like to see more or less bears in the state.
“We’re using the results of that survey to help us set goals by (each) management unit that will dictate some of the regulations, and it may very well be time that we begin to reduce some bear populations in some areas of the state,” Lovallo said.
He added that the annual bear hunt is the agency’s only effective management tool for controlling the bear population, and by examining the bears brought to the check stations, the Game Commission learns a lot about the bear population in general.
“The primary reason for the check stations is to help us monitor our bear population. Each year, PGC staff tags anywhere from 600 to 750 black bears throughout the state with metal ear tags. When they come to these check stations, we’re looking for those tags because that’s the basis for our population monitoring program: to see how many of those bears that are out there are actually harvested,” Lovallo said.
A tooth is also taken from each bear so that its age can be estimated. Various other information about each bear, such as its gender, weight, and the location where it was killed, is also recorded.
“We also affix a permanent seal that tells a taxidermist or anybody else that that was a legally harvested bear,” Lovallo said.
As of about 4:30 p.m. Monday afternoon, around 115 bears had been processed at the check station at S. B. Elliott State Park in Clearfield County. A number of bears harvested in Elk County have been processed at the check station at S. B. Elliott State Park throughout the first two days of this year’s hunt.
For more information on this story, see the Nov. 23 edition of The Daily Press.