DEC releases bear harvest totals for 2023

Warwick. The Orange County area had a rate of five to 10 bears killed per 100 square miles during the regular bear hunting season.

| 29 Mar 2024 | 02:54

The NYS Department of Environmental Conservation released details on the state’s annual bear hunt for 2023 last week. According to the DEC, hunters killed an estimated 1,356 black bears during the 2023 big game hunting season, a sight increase from the 2022 hunting season, with the greatest harvest density occurring in areas of the Catskills.

An estimated 485 bears were harvested in the Northern Zone and an estimated 871 bears in the Southern Zone, which includes the Hudson Valley. This represents roughly 6% more bears harvested in the north and 1% more in the south than in 2022.

The area with the largest number of bears killed per 100 square miles (16:1) took place in Wildlife Management Unit (WMU) 3K, which includes most of the lower part of Sullivan County and a portion of Deerpark in Orange County.

The majority of Orange County, which falls into WMU 3M, had a ratio of 5.1 to 10 bears killed per 100 square miles.

The DEC noted that the largest bear killed in 2023 was 550 pounds, taken in the town of Windsor, Broome County, WMU 7S.

The DEC compiles the data from two main sources: harvest reports required of all successful bear hunters, and the physical examination of bears by DEC staff and cooperating taxidermists. Harvest estimates are made by cross-referencing these two data sources and determining the rate at which hunters report bear harvests in each zone.

DEC also requests that successful bear hunters submit a premolar tooth from the bear to determine its age. DEC uses this information to assess the impact of bear harvest on the age distribution of the bear population. Hunters who reported their bear harvest and submitted a tooth for age analysis are provided a commemorative Black Bear Management Coordinator Patch and will be informed of the age of their bear in the fall of 2024. Bear teeth from the 2023 season are still being analyzed.

According to the DEC, the state’s black bear population is estimated to be between 6,000 and 7,000. More information on the annual bear harvest and the state black bear management plan can be found on the DEC’s website.