Tennessee Bear Harvest 3rd Highest on Record

bear harvest
This graph illustrates the dramatic increase in bear harvests in Tennessee due to significant population increases, following improved management practices over the years. (Bear photo by retired TWRA Major Tom Wood)

Tennessee’s 2015-16 black bear season ended on January 2 as the last hunt concluded in McMinn, Monroe, and Polk Counties.

Tennessee hunters reported a harvest of 550 black bears during the 2015-16 season that began with an archery-only hunt on September 26, and ended with a hunt allowing dogs on January 2.  Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency biologists say this is the third highest black bear harvest on record.

The harvest was down last year (348) as excellent hard mast production kept bear movements lower. Healthy sows also reproduced very well in their winter dens, which resulted in a surplus of bears on the ground this year.  A combination of more bears and a poor hard mast crop this year led to increased bear movements and higher harvest numbers.

“We are seeing a trend over the last decade of a good harvest one year followed by a lower harvest the following year,” says TWRA Bear Program Coordinator Dan Gibbs.  “This is indicative of a healthy population and a fluctuation in food availability.”

Numbers have grown steadily since the late 1980s when the annual harvest was well under 100 bears.  Every season since 2005, hunters have taken over 300 bears and the record harvest was set in 2011 when 589 black bears were reported through TWRA’s checking system.

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