The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Outdoors

December 16, 2012

Bear harvest numbers mixed

JOHNSTOWN — Bear season appears to have been a mixed bag in the region, with the Pennsylvania Game Commission’s preliminary harvest figures showing a big increase in the number of animals taken in Somerset County and a commensurate decline in the Cambria County kill.

Tentative totals for the four-day season in mid-November are 87 bears taken in Somerset County, 11 in Cambria, 19 in Indiana and 76 in Bedford.

Last year, Somerset County produced 85 bears, down from 83 a year before; Cambria’s kill was 35, up from 18 in 2010; Indians was 33 (43) and Bedford produced 55 (84).

Official numbers on this year’s kill won’t be available until early next year, but likely will be close to the preliminary figures.

Nevertheless, the numbers indicate the up-and-down nature of bear harvests. Tom Fazi at the Game Commision’s Southwest Region office in Bolivar, said the annual results are dependent on a wide variety of factors that are often not easy to pin down.

“I don’t know,” he said when asked about this year’s numbers.

“It was a bad weather year. I know the acorn crop was not what it should be, and the

bears weren’t in the traditional mountainous regions and on game lands. They were likely

in agricultural areas, where hunter access may not have been as good. And, with the Saturday opener, I’m just wondering if the casual bear hunter may not be going out again on Monday.

“I think if we had had better weather conditions and a better mast crop, we’d have had a great kill,” Fazi said.

“We certainly have the bears. They only killed 11 bears in all of Cambria County. That’s a drop in the bucket with how many bears that live in Cambria County. But, bear hunters are notorious for preseason scouting, and I think when they say the lack of mast, they went somewhere else to hunt.”

One Cambria County hunter who went elsewhere is Rob McCombie of Benshoff Hill, who has been a bear hunter for nearly 20 years.

“We hunt around Emporium, and the bear were there during the summer,” he said.

“There were sightings there all summer long, but the feed was just gone by the time bear season came. We were busting acorns open, and they were all rotted.

“We’ve been bear hunting long enough to know they will move 70 or 100 miles to find food. After not seeing anything on Saturday (the opener), we scouted on Sunday and found a place with good acorns. That’s where I missed a bear on Monday.”

McCombie agreed that there was no shortage of bears.

“This year, I think there’s just as many bear,” he said. “But, people see bear in the summer and go there and sit in bear season and don’t see anything. They don’t realize bear move with the food supply.

“I had a buddy who went up to a camp in Snowshoe and their group got six bear in two days. Somebody went up there and did their scouting and found there was a lot of food there, so thats where they hunted.”

Statewide, the four-day preliminary harvest was put at 2,639 bears.

Last year’s four-day total was 3,154, which sent the state’s hunters on their way to a eventual record kill of 4,350 once archery and extended-season kills were added.

Game Commission Press Secretary Jerry Feaser said

even if this year’s final figure is lower, it should not prove surprising.

“You don’t often follow a record harvest with another record harvest,” he said. “But right now, we only know the results of the four-day season. We added additional bear hunting in urbanized units. But, we can’t compare this year’s harvest with all of last year’s harvest because we don’t have all of this year’s harvest figures yet. We are still waiting for that.”

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