Virginia 2016–2017 Black Bear Harvest

A total of 2,428 bears were harvested in Virginia during the 2016–17 bear hunting seasons, a 3% increase over the 2015-16 harvest and just a few bears more than the highest harvest recorded in Virginia (2014; 2423 bears). A number of factors influence the annual bear harvest including weather, mast crops, and shifts in hunter effort and participation. The 2016-17 hunting season was the second season with the new bear license requirement. In 2016, 30,868 resident bear licenses and 957 non-resident bear licenses were sold (119 more than 2015). Nonresident hunters from 30 states harvested 179 bears. Youth and apprentice hunters took advantage of this special weekend in October and harvested 77 bears. Approximately 67% of the total harvest was west of the Blue Ridge Mountains including 64% of the archery harvest, 63% of the muzzleloader harvest and 70% of the total firearms harvest (74% of the hound hunter harvest).

Mast production, while better overall than in 2015, was once again regionally 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. Once again, this year’s harvest fell within the expected range of harvests Virginia has experienced recently. Since 2008, harvests have exceeded 2,000 bears, the highest being this year closely followed by 2014 (2,423 bears) and the lowest in 2011 (2,008 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. 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.

2016–2017 Black Bear Harvest

Season/Method Harvested
Harvest (%)
Total Harvest 2428 100 40
Youth/Apprentice 77 3 45
No Hounds
Archery 774 32 43
Muzzleloader 364 15 43
Firearms 1213 50 37
No Hounds

Statewide Black Bear Harvest (1970–2016)