Black Bear Harvests Increase In 2023

Black bear harvests in West Virginia dramatically increased in 2023, according to the Division of Natural Resources.
None were harvested in Brooke County, but 241 were taken in nearby counties.
During the 2023 archery and firearms seasons for black bear, West Virginia hunters harvested 2,830 bears, which was a 64 percent increase over the 1,727 bears harvested in 2022.
“This impressive black bear harvest just goes to show that West Virginia has a wealth of hunting opportunities beyond the popular deer seasons,” said DNR director Brett McMillion.
DNR wildlife biologists projected increased black bear harvests for the state’s archery and crossbow season and firearms season in the 2023 Mast Survey and Hunting Outlook. Both projections came true and can be attributed to favorable mast conditions.
“The statewide mast index for all species combined in 2023 was up 15 percent compared to 2022,” said Colin Carpenter, black bear project leader for DNR.
“The best hard mast production in 2023 was recorded for red and black oak, which was up 138 percent over 2022, and scarlet oak, which was up 108 percent over 2022.”
Hunters harvested 1,898 bears during the firearms season and 932 bears during the first segment of the 2023 archery and crossbow season, from Sept. 30-Nov. 19.
Hunters harvested 470 bears with vertical bows and 462 bears with crossbows. The top five counties for archery harvests were Fayette (83), McDowell and Wyoming (71), Nicholas (62), Raleigh (59) and Greenbrier (55).
Hunters harvested 538 bears with firearms in September and October (140 bears during the September youth, class Q/QQ and XS seasons, 10 bears during the October youth, class Q/QQ and XS seasons and 48 bears during the concurrent antlerless deer/bear season).
Hunters also harvested 352 bears during the concurrent buck firearms and bear season and 1,007 bears during the traditional December season.
One bear was harvested by a muzzleloader during the Mountaineer Heritage Season in January.
The top five counties for firearm harvests were Boone (152), Nicholas (144), Randolph (133), Pocahontas (124) and Kanawha (124).