100,000 Bears Killed In Eastern US States


The following analysis breaks down multiple bear death totals. Over 100,000 bears, –  100,103 to be exact – have been killed in annual hunts in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, New York, North Carolina and South Carolina, and Virginia in the last dozen years or so.


In Virginia, 10,972 bears have been killed in legal hunts in the years 2008 to 2012 and another hunt is scheduled for this year.

2,144 – 2012
2,008 – 2011
2,267 – 2010
2,325 – 2009
2,228 – 2008

(Source: Virginia.gov)

West Virginia

16,019 bears were killed in West Virginia hunts in the years 2000 – 2009.

(Source: West Virginia, Wildlife Resources, Big Game Bulletin)

Just last year, another 2,683 black bears were killed, bringing the total up to 18,702.


In Pennsylvania, there have been 45,837 bear killings in hunts from 1998 – 2012. A hunt will be allowed this year as well.

2,639 – 2012
4,350 – 2011
3,090 – 2010
3,512 – 2009
3,458 – 2008
2,362 – 2007
3,124 – 2006
2,976 – 2004
4,164 – 2005
3,000 – 2003
2,686 – 2002
3,063 – 2001
3,075 – 2000
1,740 – 1999
2,598 – 1998

(Source: PennLive)

North Carolina
North Carolina bear hunts have killed 7,767 in the years 2008 – 2012. (Bears were killed in previous years also.)

1,844 – 2012
(Source: NC Wildlife)

1,644 – 2011
(Source: NC Wildlife)

1,701 – 2010
(Source: NC Wildlife)

1,273 – 2009

(Source: NC Wildlife)

1,305 – 2008

(Source: NC Wildlife)

New York

New York state hunts have killed 15,081 bears from 2000 – 2012. (Bears were killed in previous years also.) A hunt will be allowed this year as well.

(Source: NY.gov)

New Jersey

In New Jersey, about 1,000 bears were killed in hunts in 2010 – 2011. There is no hunt
scheduled for this year.

South Carolina

South Carolina bear hunts have killed 744 bears since 1970.

Why Bear Hunts?

The rationale for having state bear hunts is that they reduce the potential for human-bear conflict and therefore protect humans. However, it seems quite obvious that conversion of wild lands that used to be bear habitat for residential and even commercial development has placed more and more humans in these areas. Bears are blamed for getting too close to humans and even labelled nuisance bears at times. The ‘solution’ to the sometimes uneasy relationship between humans and bears has been to kill thousands of bears every year in hunts. (Bears are also killed when struck by vehicles, shot illegally and poisoned.)

According to Bear Smart, killing a bear often does not solve a problem because another bear will move into territory where there is an attractant, such as garbage, and so the cycle of bear deaths will continue.

The decision to have bear hunts is partly based on public perception, which is based in the number of complaints about nuisance bears. However, a Rutgers professor studied the calls made by New Jersey residents about bears, and found many duplicates, which inflated the total very much. In other words, the data used to make the decision to have bear hunts was false.

Killing bears is also a very questionable practice. A bear expert from Alaska explained why:

When asked if recreational hunting is the best way to minimize nuisance behavior, Alaska bear expert Stephen F. Stringham, Ph.D., responded:

“1. Killing bears should be a last resort, and it should target only those nuisance bears that cannot be cured, even after people ha ve quit luring bears into misbehaving. Once attractants are eliminated, and intrusions into human habitats are punished (e.g., with
pepper spray), virtually every bear will quit raiding. Bears don’t deserve capital punishment for problems that people create.
2. Recreational hunting seldom identifies or eliminates problem bears.
3. All too often, recreational hunting is both inefficient and counterproductive.
4. Killing bears treats only the symptoms, not the causes of misbehavior.”

(Source: Urban Wildlife Series – The Black Bear)

Bear stories in mass media are most often related to reported attacks, even if a bear only charges or bites a person one time. However, little to no attention is paid to the fact that thousands of bears are killed very year in state hunts. (These hunts are often called ‘harvests’ as if bears are ears of corn that need to be collected.)

Photo by Greg Hume

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