NASHVILLE— A record black bear harvest was established in the 2011 hunting seasons, according to the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency.
Hunters harvested 581 bears, surpassing the previous record of 573 set in 2009. The third all-time high for a year was 446 in 2008.
This year’s record harvest is up from the 301 bears harvested in 2010. Hunters have harvested at least 300 bears in the state for the past seven years.
Black bears were harvested in 12 East Tennessee counties in 2011. Sevier County was again the top county for harvest with 126, after having 41 harvested in 2010. Monroe County was second with 90, followed by Cocke 87, Polk 58, Carter 49, Sullivan 26, Johnson 24, Greene 21, Unicoi 20, Washington 16, and Jefferson one.
Tennessee black bear harvest reports started in 1951. That year, there were a total of 29 bears harvested.
According to the TWRA, Tennessee’s black bear population has been steadily increasing over the past 40 years due to several management practices put in place by the agency. These practices include establishment of a series of bear reserves throughout the bear habitat, protection of females and cubs, and setting the majority of the bear hunting season later in the year when most females have gone to the den.