Archived Outdoors

N.C. logs record bear harvest in 2020

Hunters harvested a record 3,748 black bears in North Carolina last year, an 8% increase over the previous season. 

That total included record-breaking harvests in the coastal and piedmont areas, as well as the second-highest recorded harvest in the 25-county area that comprises the mountain management area, with 1,429 bears harvested there. The majority of the bear harvest occurred in the Coastal Bear Management Unit, at 60%, followed by the Mountain BMU at 38% and Piedmont BMU at 2%. This is a trend that has stayed the course since the mid-1990s.

“The increase in harvest likely reflects the ‘COVID effect’ that several states, including North Carolina, have experienced,” said Colleen Olfenbuttel, black bear and furbearer biologist for the N.C. Wildlife Resources Commission. “During 2020, many North Carolinians reconnected with the outdoors, including participating in regulated hunting. We set a record for the number of bear e-stamps issued, 88,411, which was also an 8% increase.”

Hunting seasons are highly regulated and play a key role managing bear populations, resolving agricultural damage, providing wild game meat  and helping to enforce a bear’s natural fear of people. Wildlife Commission staff closely monitor trends in the harvest, including the female harvest, which was up 13% in 2020 with the highest harvest sex ratio since 1998.

A total of 41% of successful bear hunters reported they used still hunting to harvest their bear in 2020, the highest percent since the Commission started requesting this information in 2009. Preliminary data show that 45% of successful hunters participated in the N.C. Bear Cooperator Program, a 3% decrease from the year prior that is likely related to COVID restrictions. The program lets hunters directly participate with the Commission in monitoring the bear population when they voluntarily submit the premolar teeth from their harvested bear. 

Annual harvest summaries are posted at www.ncwildlife.org/learning/species/mammals/black-bear.

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