Much of the record-breaking increase stemmed from bowhunters' unexpected success.
Because acorns were so plentiful this year, biologists weren't expecting a big archery harvest. Abundant mast tends to scatter bears widely and makes them more difficult for hunters to locate.
Colin Carpenter, the DNR's bear project leader, said the hit-and-miss nature of the acorn crop created an unexpected phenomenon.
"The [oak mast] distribution was spotty," Carpenter explained. "This fact, combined with two additional weeks of archery hunting, allowed archers to locate bears effectively and led to an increased archery harvest."
Bowhunters ended up killing 746 bruins.
With so many acorns on the ground, bears that didn't hibernate after the October snowstorm stayed out well into December.
"[It made] bears vulnerable to harvest during the concurrent buck/bear season and the traditional December firearms season," Carpenter said.
The top five firearm counties, early and traditional seasons combined, were Pocahontas, 183; Pendleton, 179; Randolph, 163; Webster, 151; and Greenbrier, 148.
The top five archery counties were Webster, 71; Nicholas, 67; Randolph, 57; Fayette, 55; and Preston, 51.
Reach John McCoy at 304-348-1231 or johnmc...@wvgazette.com.