Hunters killed an estimated 403 bears in the Northern Zone and 943 bears in the Southern Zone. This represents roughly 30 percent fewer bears taken in the north and 20 percent fewer taken in the south than in 2020, but only about 10 percent fewer than the five-year average in each zone.
According to DEC, there is generally an alternating pattern of high and low bear harvest from year to year, which is influenced by fluctuating patterns in cub production and food availability. Because bear harvest was greater than average in 2020, and because natural foods for bears were abundant in the fall, biologists expected the number of bears killed by hunters to decline slightly in 2021. However, warm weather through much of the early season likely coupled with the abundant food to reduce bear movements and thereby reduced the number of bears killed by hunters more than was expected.
Despite an overall lower harvest, the Catskill region continues to have the greatest bear hunting densities, and in Wildlife Management Units (WMU) 3A, 3C, 3K, 3P, 4R, and 4W, hunters killed more than 10 bears per 100 square miles. DEC’s bear management objectives are to maintain stable bear populations through most of New York and reduce bear abundance in the central and southern Catskills.
In 2021, DEC simplified the bear hunting seasons in the Adirondack WMUs by expanding the regular season to incorporate the early, bow, and muzzleloader season. Bow and muzzleloader season continued in the other Northern Zone WMUs.
- 24.2: the number of bears killed per 100 square miles in WMU 3K (southern Sullivan County and a portion of Orange County), which had the greatest bear harvest density of any unit. The town of Tusten in Sullivan County yielded 4.6 bears for every 10 square miles.
- 143: the greatest number of bears reported killed on any one day. This occurred on the Nov. 20 opening day of the regular bear season in the Southern Zone.
- 560 pounds: the heaviest dressed-weight bear reported to DEC in 2021, taken in the town of Hunter, Greene County, WMU 3A. Of the top 25 heaviest bears, five came from St. Lawrence County and five from Ulster County. Scaled weights of dressed bears were submitted for 28 percent of bears taken in 2021.
- 10: the number of tagged bears reported in the 2021 harvest. These include two bears originally tagged in Pennsylvania.
- 637: the number of hunter-killed bears from which DEC collected teeth for age analysis in 2021.
- 14 percent: the proportion of bears taken by non-resident hunters. Successful non-resident bear hunters hailed from 20 states and one territory.
Black bear hunting data are gathered from two main sources: reports required of all successful bear hunters; and the physical examination of more than dead 300 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.
In 2021, 84 percent of hunters who killed a bear reported it to DEC. Hunters who reported and submitted a tooth for age analysis receive a 2021 Black Bear Management Coordinator Patch and will be informed this fall of the age of the bear they killed.
DEC’s 2021 Bear Harvest Summary report and past harvest summaries, including tables, charts, and maps detailing New York State deer harvest, are available on DEC’s website.
Illustrations, from above: black bear provided by dec; and 2021 estimated bear harvest totals.