Updates Related to COVID-19 »

Virginia 2020–2021 Black Bear Harvest

Hunters reported harvesting 3,464 bears during the 2020–21 bear hunting seasons in Virginia (see bear harvest graph below). The 2020–21 bear harvest was approximately 2% lower than the previous year’s record harvest; however, as the second highest harvest on record, it was still 24% higher than the previous 5-year average during 2015–2019. Female bears composed a higher proportion of the 2020-21 season harvest (47%) than the previous year (44%). The youth/apprentice weekend, archery season, and muzzleloader season harvests decreased from the previous year by 21%, 8%, and 18%, respectively, while the 3-day early firearms season and regular firearms season harvests increased from the 2019–20 seasons by 9% and 4%, respectively (see attached bear harvest table).

A primary reason for the relatively high bear harvest in 2020–21 was the additional firearms hunting opportunities put in place the previous season to help achieve black bear population objectives and increase recreational opportunities in areas with expanding bear populations. Good weather throughout most of the 2020 season may have contributed to increased bear movements, later denning, and favorable hunting opportunities later in the season. However, poor weather (heavy rain, wind, and fog) during the youth/apprentice weekend certainly hampered hunting success during that specific weekend of the 2020–21 season. It will take a few more years to determine the ultimate bear population impacts of recent firearms season expansions as well as the 3-day early firearms season (established during 2017) because of variation year-to-year in hunter success and environmental factors.

The 2020–21 season was the second season during which hunters could check bears through the DWR electronic harvest reporting systems using their phone, internet, or mobile application.  Electronic harvest reporting systems accounted for 68% of harvested bears reported during the 2020–21 season, up from 58% the previous year. As in previous years, hunters were also able to report their bear harvest at bear check stations. The quality of harvest data received during the last two seasons indicate that the electronic reporting system is an effective method of data collection, including submission of teeth for aging bears.

Across all seasons when hounds could be used, an estimated 57% of bears were taken by hunters using hounds during 2020–21. Preliminary season estimates for the proportion of bears harvested by hunters using hounds were as follows: 3-day early firearms season (43%), firearms season (60%), and youth/apprentice weekend (83%).

Virginia continues to provide diverse opportunities for a successful bear hunt. For additional details on black bear management in Virginia please visit our web page. Data presented in this summary are preliminary and only include bears killed in the regulated bear hunting seasons.

Summary of 2020–2021 Black Bear Harvest by Season in Virginia

Season Harvest (#) % Total Harvest % Females
3-Day Early Firearms 469 13.5% 54%
Youth/Apprentice 101 2.9% 56%
Archery 848 24.5% 47%
Muzzleloader 385 11.1% 45%
Firearms 1649 47.6% 45%
Unknown (not assigned) 12 0.3% 33%
Total 3464 100% 47%

Statewide Black Bear Harvest (1928–2020)