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For Release: Wednesday, April 6, 2016

DEC Announces 2015 Bear Harvest Results

Second Largest Bear Harvest on Record for 2015

New York bear hunters took 1,715 black bears during the 2015 hunting seasons, the second largest bear harvest on record in New York, state Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Acting Commissioner Basil Seggos announced today. Only the 2003 harvest (1,863) surpassed the 2015 year's take.

"Our bear population is flourishing in New York State, providing increased opportunities for hunters and wildlife watchers alike to enjoy these important species" DEC Acting Commissioner Seggos said. "DEC's science based management strategies are working to maintain the bear population and allow for expanded hunting opportunities."

Hunters took a total of 1,132 black bears in the Southern Zone, approximately the same as in 2014, but about 30 percent greater than the recent five-year average take. Most bears (596) were taken during the regular season, followed by the bow season (327 bears). Hunters took 192 bears during the early season, a decrease from 2014 but a significant portion of the total bear harvest. In those WMUs that have an early bear season, 36 percent of the total number of bears taken in those WMUs occurred during the early season.

In the Northern Zone, a total of 583 bears were harvested, 27 percent above the recent five-year average. Based primarily on cyclers of food availability, bear harvest in the Northern Zone tends to alternate between strong harvests during the early season one year followed by strong harvests during the regular season the next. This year, hunters were more successful during the regular season, taking 253 bears, whereas 183 bears were taken during the early season.

2015 Black Bear Harvest & Recent Trend Comparison

2015 Total 2014 Total Recent
5-year Average (2010-2014)
Historical Average
(1991-2000)
Northern Zone 583 518 460 515
Southern Zone 1,132 1,110 869 207
Statewide 1,715 1,628 1,329 722

Notable Numbers

  • One bear per 3.0 square miles --- the bear harvest density in Wildlife Management Unit 3K which includes portions of Sullivan and Orange counties. Within WMU 3K, the town of Tusten in Sullivan County produced one bear for every 2.2 square miles.
  • 179 -- the number of bears reported taken on the opening day of the regular firearms season in the Southern Zone, representing 19 percent of the total Southern Zone bear harvest.
  • 520 pounds --- the heaviest dressed weight bear reported to DEC in 2015, taken in the Town of Forestburg, Sullivan County. A 450-pound dressed weight bear was reported taken in the Town of Woodstock in Ulster County and three bears from Genesee, Orange, and St. Lawrence Counties dressed between 420-445 pounds. Scaled weights of dressed bears were submitted for 25 percent of the bears taken in 2015.
  • 17 -- The number of tagged bears reported in the 2015 harvest. These included five bears that were originally tagged in Pennsylvania and two from New Jersey. The remainder were tagged in New York for a variety of reasons including research, nuisance response, relocated urban bears, or released rehabilitated bears.

2015 Bear Take Summary Report

A complete summary of the 2015 bear harvest (PDF) (2.1 MB) with results and maps by county, town, and WMU is available at DEC's website.

NYS Black Bear Cooperator Patch Program

Hunters play a pivotal role in bear management through reporting their bear harvests, and many hunters also submit a tooth sample from their bear for DEC to determine the age of harvested bears (see the Black Bear Tooth Collection webpage). For all hunters who report their harvest and submit a tooth, 752 hunters in 2015, DEC provides a NYS Black Bear Cooperator Patch and a letter informing them of their bear's age. DEC is still processing tooth submissions from 2015. We anticipate mailing cooperator patches and age letters to eligible hunters in September 2016.

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