Virginia 2012-2013 Black Bear Harvest
A total of 2,144 bears were harvested in Virginia during the 2012-2013 bear hunting seasons representing the combined kill from archery, muzzleloader, and firearms hunters. The 2012 harvest resulted in an approximate 7% increase over last year's initial reported kill of 1,997 bears. In 2012, bears were harvested in 73 counties/cities. Female bears represented 36% of the total 2012 harvest, which was a smaller proportion of females in the total harvest compared to the previous 3-year average female harvest of 42%.
Archery hunters accounted for 513 bears during 2012, representing 24% of the total harvest. Archery success typically increases during poor mast years and decreases when acorns are abundant. As expected, with a better mast crop in the fall of 2012 than 2011, archery success decreased this year compared to last year and was lower than the previous 3-year average of 33% of the total harvest. The top three archery counties were Augusta (32), Rockingham (30) and Page (24). Crossbow hunters accounted for 44% of the total archery kill in 2012. The harvest from the archery season was 32% female, down from the previous 3-year average female harvest of 42%.
Muzzleloader hunting opportunities were expanded in 2011, and the second year of the statewide 1-week muzzleloader harvest accounted for 415 bears (19% of the total harvest). This is an increase over the previous 3-year average (15%) of the total harvest. The 2012 muzzleloader harvest represented the highest proportion of the total harvest since a special muzzleloader season was implemented in Virginia. The top three muzzleloading counties were Rockingham (22), Botetourt (18), and Bath (18). The harvest during the muzzleloader season was composed of 39% females, which was down from the previous 3-year average female harvest of 46%.
Representing 57% of the total harvest, the 2012 firearms season yielded 1,216 bears, an increase from the 2011 harvest (1,039 bears, 52% of harvest) and greater than the previous 3-year average percent of the total harvest (52%) . Hound hunters accounted for 59% of the firearms kill in 2012 (33% of the statewide harvest), which was an increase over the previous 3-year average of 56% of the firearms harvest and 29% of the total statewide harvest. The top three general firearms counties were Rockingham (89), Nelson (75), and Craig (63). General firearms hunters who did not use hounds harvested 40% females, a reduction from the previous 3-year average female harvest of 42%. Hound hunters harvested 34% females, down from the previous 3-year average female harvest of 36%. The top 3 counties/cities for bear harvest without the use of dogs were Nelson (31), Rockingham (29), and Suffolk (25). The top 3 counties for bear harvest with the use of dogs were Rockingham (60), Craig (55), and Nelson (44).
Due to its efficacy, tradition, effectiveness, and recreational value, regulated hunting is the primary bear population management option in Virginia. The Black Bear Management Plan outlines population objectives with guidance on appropriate strategies to manage bear populations based on cultural carrying capacity objectives, viability status, and current population trends. While regulated hunting is highly effective for controlling and managing bear populations, conservative hunting seasons are also compatible with objectives to increase bear populations. Bear population objectives have been revised for the 2012-2021 Black Bear Management Plan. Bear harvest seasons and regulations will be structured to meet these new goals and objectives.
Data presented in this summary are preliminary and only include bears killed in the regulated bear hunting seasons.
Virginia Counties with the Greatest Bear Harvest