West Virginia bear harvest increases 64 percent in 2023

West Virginia hunters harvested 2,830 black bears in 2023

BECKLEY, W.Va. — Gov. Jim Justice and the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) announced today black bear harvests in West Virginia dramatically increased in 2023.

“I couldn’t be more proud because this is further proof that West Virginia is a hotspot for bear hunters,” Gov. Justice said. “The success of this program is a testament to the hard work of our WVDNR team and everyone who is making our state a hunting destination. Keep up the great work.”

During the 2023 archery and firearms seasons for black bear, West Virginia hunters harvested 2,830 bears, which was a 64 percent increase over the 1,727 bears harvested in 2022.

“This impressive black bear harvest just goes to show that West Virginia has a wealth of hunting opportunities beyond the popular deer seasons,” said WVDNR Director Brett McMillion.

WVDNR wildlife biologists projected increased black bear harvests for the state’s archery and crossbow season and firearms season in the 2023 Mast Survey and Hunting Outlook. Both projections came true and can be attributed to favorable mast conditions.

“The statewide mast index for all species combined in 2023 was up 15 percent compared to 2022,” said Colin Carpenter, black bear project leader for WVDNR. “The best hard mast production in 2023 was recorded for red and black oak, which was up 138 percent over 2022, and scarlet oak, which was up 108 percent over 2022.” 

2023 Black Bear Harvest Numbers at a Glance
Hunters harvested 1,898 bears during the firearms season and 932 bears during the first segment of the 2023 archery and crossbow season, from September 30 to November 19.

Hunters harvested 470 bears with vertical bows and 462 bears with crossbows. The top five counties for archery harvests were Fayette (83), McDowell and Wyoming (71), Nicholas (62), Raleigh (59) and Greenbrier (55).

Hunters harvested 538 bears with a firearm in September and October (140 bears during the September youth, class Q/QQ and XS seasons, 10 bears during the October youth, class Q/QQ and XS seasons and 48 bears during the concurrent antlerless deer/bear season). Hunters also harvested 352 bears during the concurrent buck firearms and bear season and 1,007 bears during the traditional December season. One bear was harvested by a muzzleloader during the Mountaineer Heritage Season in January. The top five counties for firearms harvests were Boone (152), Nicholas (144), Randolph (133), Pocahontas (124) and Kanawha (124).

A complete list of black bear harvest numbers by county may be downloaded by clicking here.

The WVDNR is reminding black bear hunters to purchase their 2024 hunting license and bear damage stamp. Hunters are also encouraged to upgrade their license by purchasing a physical license card. To purchase a license and to learn more about license products, visit WVdnr.gov/2024-licenses.