Bear numbers recovered enough to eventually open the sanctuaries, located in the Spruce Knob and Cranberry Backcountry areas, to hunting.
Last year, hunters killed 2,683 black bears in West Virginia, a state record bear harvest. The top bear-producing county was Webster.
While several bears killed by West Virginia hunters have topped the 600-pound mark, black bears are known to reach weights in excess of 800 pounds, like the 879-pounder bagged by a Pennsylvania hunter in 2010.
One of the longest-living wild black bears known to science was a West Virginian nicknamed Quagmire by the DNR biologists who trapped her and rigged her with a radio collar in the early 1980s. When her collar dropped off in 2010, just before hibernation time, Quagmire was 29 years old -- nearly three times the average lifespan of black bears in the wild. Biologists suspect the sow, who added 20 cubs to the state's black bear population during the course of her life, failed to survive the winter of 2010-11.
Black bears are generally less than 6 feet long, and stand 2 to 3 feet high at the shoulder. Adult males generally range in weight from 150 to 450 pounds, with females averaging 100 to 300 pounds.
While western black bears often go through blond and cinnamon color phases, West Virginia's black bears are uniformly black with brownish muzzles. Five to 10 percent of the West Virginia bears have white markings on their chests, ranging from a few flecks to distinct "V" patterns.
Reach Rick Steelhammer at rsteelham...@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5169.