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Hunting- The Pennsylvania Game Commission's final harvest report for the statewide three-day black bear season and extended season shows hunters took 2,972 bears and recorded the state's fourth largest bear kill since the agency began keeping harvest records in 1915. "With the exception of one year in the past seven, bear hunting in Pennsylvania has been absolutely exceptional," said Vern Ross, agency executive director. "The state's six largest bear harvests - all exceeding 2,500 bears - have occurred during this seven-year span. The lean year was 1999, when hunters took 1,740 bears.

"Pennsylvania has become one of America's top black bear hunting states, both for the incredible size some of our black bears attain and for their increasing availability here. Today, bears are being taken in 50 or more counties annually."

Hunters took 2,425 bears during the three-day season, and 547 during the extended season held in all or parts of Wildlife Management Units 2G, 3B, 3C, 3D, 4C and 4E.

"Our continuing goal in the extended season is to use sport hunting to stabilize or reduce the bear population in areas of the state where conflict levels have exceeded acceptable levels," explained Mark Ternent, Game Commission bear biologist. "Extended bear hunting opportunities have been well-received by hunters and property owners."

He noted that the Pennsylvania Game Commission has proposed offering hunters an even larger area for extended bear season later this year. If approved by the Board of Game Commissioners in April, the three-day statewide season will be held Nov. 21-23, and the extended season will be held Nov. 28-Dec. 3 in all of WMUs 3B, 3C, 3D, 4C and 4E.

"We have monitored harvest rates in the areas open to extended hunting each year, and they have remained within acceptable levels, which played a role in our proposals for this year," Ternent said.

Lycoming County led the state with a bear harvest of 244, followed by Clinton, 218; Pike, 155; Luzerne 138; Wayne, 135; Tioga, 119; and McKean, 103.

A total of 56 bears weighing 500 pounds or more were taken in the harvest. The largest was an 834-pound (estimated live weight) male taken by 17-year-old Jeremy B. Kresge of Blakeslee at 4:15 p.m. Nov. 23, in Tunkhannock Township, Monroe County. Other top bears taken in the harvest included 671-pounder taken by Ray H. Reed of Howard at 7 a.m. Nov. 22, in Howard Township, Centre County; a 660-pounder taken at 7:30 a.m. Nov. 22, in Goshen Township, Clearfield County, by Ritchie L. Kitchen of Clearfield; and a 660-pounder taken at 8 a.m. Nov. 22, in Black Creek Township, Luzerne County, by David A. Benjamin Sr. of Weston.

Two exceptionally large bears also were taken in the extended season. The largest was a 658-pounder taken at 11 a.m. Nov. 29, in Kidder Township, Carbon County, by David R. Horvath of Springtown. Another large bear, a 631-pounder, was taken at 7:45 a.m. Nov. 30, in Cold Spring Township, Lebanon County by Irvin L. Horst of Myerstown.

The bear harvest by WMU for the statewide three-day and extended seasons, including 2003's harvest results in parentheses, were: WMU 1A, 6 (3); WMU 1B, 21 (39); WMU 2C, 187 (218); WMU 2D, 103 (139); WMU 2E, 67 (100); WMU 2F, 195 (204); WMU 2G, 632 (718); WMU 3A, 163 (153); WMU 3B, 321 (298); WMU 3C, 200 (129); WMU 3D, 419 (413); WMU 4A, 40 (63); WMU 4B, 22 (16); WMU 4C, 278 (119); WMU 4D, 247 (317); WMU 4E, 69 (71); WMU 5C, 1 (0). There was one additional bear for which harvest location information was not available.

Following is a breakdown of county harvests by region with 2003's harvest figures in parenthesis:

Northwest: Forest, 50 (43); Warren, 48 (71); Jefferson, 45 (54); Venango, 36 (40); Clarion, 31 (40); Butler, 5 (6); and Crawford, 3 (6).

Southwest: Fayette, 57 (61); Indiana, 53 (69); Somerset, 51 (75); Westmoreland, 44 (29); Armstrong, 35 (57); and Cambria, 21 (27).

Northcentral: Lycoming, 244 (202); Clinton, 218 (193); Tioga, 119 (156); McKean, 103 (129); Cameron, 95 (102); Centre, 95 (122); Clearfield, 94 (101); Potter, 87 (124); Elk, 73 (87); and Union, 26 (46).

Southcentral: Huntingdon, 73 (94); Blair, 26 (38); Bedford, 25 (40); Mifflin, 25 (28); Juniata, 11 (11); Snyder, 11 (18); Fulton, 6 (2); Franklin, 2 (0); Cumberland, 1 (2); and Perry, 1 (2).

Northeast: Pike, 155 (147); Luzerne, 138 (103); Wayne, 135 (130); Carbon, 95 (44); Monroe, 82 (112); Susquehanna, 80 (37); Bradford, 72 (59); Wyoming, 59 (42); Columbia, 57 (42); Sullivan, 56 (86); Lackawanna, 54 (37); and Northumberland, 14 (11).

Southeast: Schuylkill, 66 (39); Dauphin, 50 (14); Lebanon, 19 (4); Berks, 16 (3); Northampton, 14 (6); and Lehigh, 5 (7).

Source: PA Game Commision

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