Virginia 2013–2014 Black Bear Harvest
A total of 2,312 bears were harvested in Virginia during the 2013-14 bear hunting seasons. Representing the combined kill from youth/apprentice, archery, muzzleloader, and firearms hunters, the 2013-14 harvest was an 8% increase over last year's initial reported kill of 2,144 bears and approached the highest recorded bear harvest of 2,325 bears during the 2009-10 seasons. The archery season resulted in a harvest of 710 bears (31% of total harvest), muzzleloader season resulted in 412 bears (18%) harvested, and the firearms season resulted in 1080 bears (47%) harvested. Hunters with dogs harvested most of the bears during firearms seasons (58% of the total firearms harvest). This was the first year youth and apprentice hunters enjoyed a special day of bear hunting on the last Saturday in September. Youth and apprentice hunters harvested 110 bears, 57 of which were harvested using hounds. Similar to previous years, the overall percent females in the harvest was 43%; as usual, hound hunters harvested the smallest proportion of females. Although bears were harvested in 75 counties/cities throughout the Commonwealth, most of the harvest occurred west of the Blue Ridge (73%).
Mast conditions greatly influence the distribution of harvest among hunting seasons. Years with poor mast production typically result in archery bear harvests that make up a greater proportion of the total harvest compared to years with good mast production. With the fall of 2013 as one of the worst years on record for mast production in Virginia, an archery kill that was 31% of the total harvest was virtually identical to the proportion of bears killed during archery seasons in the seven other worst mast years since 1989 (which averaged 32% of the total harvests). During years with better mast conditions, the archery harvest typically averages 19% of the total harvest.
Due to its efficacy, tradition, effectiveness, and recreational value, regulated hunting is the primary bear population management option in Virginia. Bear harvest seasons and regulations are structured to meet the goals and objectives in the Black Bear Management Plan. The Black Bear Management Plan provides guidance on appropriate strategies to manage bear populations based on CCC 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. Data presented in this summary are preliminary and only include bears killed in the regulated bear hunting seasons. For additional details on how mast production influences the bear harvest please read the 2012-2021 Virginia Black Bear Management Plan.
Virginia Counties with the Greatest Bear Harvest