Pennsylvania is home to record black bears


If you are looking for a place to hunt for some of the largest black bears in the world, you don’t have to go far. You don’t even have to leave Penn’s Woods. Pennsylvania has some truly big bears.

There are two ways to measure big bears. Many hunters think in literal terms of big being the actual weight of the animal. In that regard, Pennsylvania black bears can and do get bigger than nearly anywhere else.

Last fall,. hunters harvested 3,748 bears, 68 of which exceeded 500 pounds. Keep in mind that legally harvested bears in our state are taken to a Pennsylvania Game Commission check station, where they are officially weighed, among other measurements,

Of the 68 Keystone bears that exceeded 500 pounds, 18 exceeded 600 pounds and two even topped the 700-pound mark.

Bears were taken in 57 of the state’s 67 counties. Three bears were harvested in Berks County and 10 were taken by hunters in WMU 5C.

Lycoming County again topped all counties with a total harvest of 312 bears.

Last fall’s harvest was the third largest on record. The largest harvest in Pennsylvania was in 2011, when 4,350 bears were taken. During the last decade, eight of the largest harvests have been recorded.

For those who are interested in record-book status, the size of the skull is the only factor. This seems logical since the weight of a bear can change dramatically due to the time of year, age and health. The skull, however, grows throughout a bear’s life and never gets smaller.

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Mature male bears are larger than females and therefore virtually all record-book bears are older males. To measure for record-book status, the skull needs to be cleaned so that only the actual bone remains. It then needs to go through a 60-day “drying” period before it officially can be measured by a Boone and Crockett measurer.

The upper skull length and width are measured to the nearest 1/16th of an inch and added together to get the final score. The minimum score to make the Boone and Crockett record book is 21 inches. The world’s record black bear actually was not hunted but “picked up” in 1975 in Utah and has a score of 23010/16 inches.

Of the top 20 black bear skulls ever entered in the Boone and Crockett record book, amazingly 11 are from Pennsylvania.

The No. 2 bear, and therefore the largest black bear ever harvested by a hunter, was taken in 2011 in Monroe County. No. 3 was not taken by a hunter, but was “picked up” by a PGC employee in 1987 in Lycoming County. Rounding out the top 20 all-time largest black bears entered in the Boone and Crockett record book are nine more harvested by hunters in Pennsylvania since 1988 (they rank sixth, eighth, ninth, 12th, 13th, 15th, 17th, 18th and 19th).

Pennsylvania entries in the top 20 come from nine counties: Armstrong, Bedford, Bradford, Carbon, Fayette, Luzerne, Lycoming, Monroe and Pike. Only two entries in the top 20 come from outside the United States, both from Manitoba, Canada. Alaska has a lot of black bears, but only one entry in the top 20. Wisconsin has three entries while California has two.

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If you want a chance to hunt for a truly big, record-book black bear, the best place to go is the Keystone State.

Contact James Lawrey: 610-371-5060 or

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Ethan Smith is a seasoned marine veteran, professional blogger, witty and edgy writer, and an avid hunter. He spent a great deal of his childhood years around the Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest in Arizona. Watching active hunters practise their craft initiated him into the world of hunting and rubrics of outdoor life. He also honed his writing skills by sharing his outdoor experiences with fellow schoolmates through their high school’s magazine. Further along the way, the US Marine Corps got wind of his excellent combination of skills and sought to put them into good use by employing him as a combat correspondent. He now shares his income from this prestigious job with his wife and one kid. Read more >>