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Virginia 2015–2016 Black Bear Harvest

A total of 2,331 bears were harvested in Virginia during the 2015–2016 bear hunting seasons, the second highest harvest ever recorded in Virginia.

A number of factors influence the annual bear harvest including weather, mast crops, and shifts in hunter effort and participation. The 2015–2016 hunting season was the first season with the new bear license requirement with 30,780 resident bear licenses and 926 non-resident bear licenses being sold. In addition to these licensed hunters, 361 bears harvested during the season were killed by hunters exempt from purchasing a bear license. For 2015, the youth/apprentice hunting weekend was moved from the last weekend in September to the second weekend in October. While this weekend overlapped archery season, youth and apprentice hunters successfully took advantage of this special opportunity, harvesting 110 bears.

Compared to the very good mast crop in 2014, mast production in 2015 was very spotty. Annual mast conditions greatly influence the distribution of the bear harvest among hunting seasons. As bears concentrate around available food sources, they may become more vulnerable to harvest by early season hunters when food is scarce (especially in poor mast years), and may den earlier to conserve resources. Therefore, years with poor or spotty mast production typically result in archery harvests that make up a greater proportion of the total harvest compared to years with good mast production. The average percent of bears killed during archery season varies from 19% of the total harvest in good mast years to 32% of total harvest in poor mast years.

Because the bear harvest varies year-to-year due to the factors listed above, definitive conclusions regarding the impact of the new bear license aren’t evident. However, this year's harvest fell within the range of harvests Virginia has experienced recently. Since 2008, harvests have exceeded 2,000 bears, the highest being in 2014 (2,412 bears) and the lowest in 2011 (2,005 bears).

Due to its tradition, effectiveness, and recreational value, regulated hunting is the primary bear population management option in Virginia with bear hunting seasons and regulations structured to meet the goals and objectives of Virginia's Black Bear Management Plan. As of 2014, recent bear harvests were meeting population objectives in the majority of bear management zones in Virginia. Data presented in this summary are preliminary and only include bears killed in the regulated bear hunting seasons. For additional details on black bear management in Virginia please read the 2012–2021 Black Bear Management Plan.

2015–2016 Black Bear Harvest

Season/Method Harvested (#) % Total Harvest % Female
Total Harvest 2331 100% 37%
Youth/Apprentice 110 5% 42%
Hounds
No Hounds
87
23
4%
1%
42%
39%
Archery 572 24% 34%
Muzzleloader 323 14% 39%
Firearms 1326 57% 37%
Hounds
No Hounds
774
552
34%
23%
38%
37%
Sundays 143 6% 33%
Youth/Apprentice
Archery
Muzzleloader
Firearms
7
61
37
38
<1%
3%
<2%
<2%
28%
31%
35%
33%

Statewide Black Bear Harvest (1970–2015)