2024 West Virginia Bear Hunting Regulations

WV Bear Hunting

The complete guide to West Virginia Bear Hunting Season. Purchase your WV hunting license and review the regulations before bear hunting in West Virginia this year.

Resident and Nonresident WV Bear Hunting License Privileges

Two black bear in WV may be taken during the archery; crossbow; Special Youth, Class Q/QQ and Class XS; and firearms seasons combined, provided that at least one bear must be taken in Boone, Fayette, Kanawha, Logan, McDowell, Mingo, Nicholas, Raleigh or Wyoming counties. No person may take more than one bear per day.

To hunt black bear, hunters must possess one of the following valid license combinations: resident license (Classes X+DS, Classes X3+DS, Classes XP+DS, Classes XJ+DS, Classes AHJ+DS, Class XS, Classes AB-L+DS, Classes A-L+DS, Classes A+CS+DS+BG or Classes AH+CS+DS+BG); or a free license (Military, Disabled Veteran, former POW, Senior Citizen or Class DT); or nonresident license (Classes EE+DS+CS/LE or Class DT). Underage residents and resident landowners (see page 10) hunting on their own land may hunt bear without a license. Class DT license holders must be accompanied by a parent, guardian or, with written consent of the parent or guardian, any other competent licensed adult 21 years of age or older.

Additional licenses must be purchased for bear hunting in WV:

  • to hunt on National Forest lands: Class I (required for Class EE).
  • to hunt with a handgun: Class A-1 (must be 21 or older, required for all hunters except resident landowners).

It is Illegal to

hunt bears in WV with the use of bait (includes, but not limited to, corn and other grains, animal carcasses or animal remains, grease, sugars in any form, scent attractants and other edible enticements, and an area is considered baited for ten days after all bait has been removed).

  • bait or feed bears at any time
  • hunt a bear with:
    • a shotgun using ammunition loaded with more than one solid ball.
    • a rifle of less than .25 caliber using rimfire ammunition.
    • a pistol or revolver using a straight-walled case of less than .357 magnum cartridge or a bottlenecked case of less than .24 caliber
    • a muzzleloading pistol of less than .38 caliber.
    • an air rifle less than .45 caliber and with a bullet of less than 200 grains.
    • an air bow.
    • a crossbow having more than one string.
    • a crossbow that does not have:
      • a draw weight of at least 125 pounds.
      • a working safety.
      • bolts and arrows at least 16 inches long, including the insert and nock.
      • broadheads with at least two sharp-cutting edges at least 3/4 inch in width.
      • use an arrow with an explosive, drug-laced, or poisoned head or shaft.
  • hunt bear between 1/2 hour after sunset and 1/2 hour before sunrise.
  • kill or attempt to kill or wound or attempt to wound any bear through the use of bait, poison, explosives, traps or deadfalls.
  • shoot at or kill a bear weighing less than 75 pounds live weight or 50 pounds field dressed weight or to kill any bear accompanied by a cub or to kill any cub accompanied by another bear, regardless of its weight.
  • kill more than one bear per day or more than two bears per year (excludes bear taken during Mountaineer Heritage Season and special urban bear season).
  • organize for commercial purposes, or to professionally outfit a bear hunt, or to give or receive any consideration whatsoever or any donation in money, goods or services in connection with a bear hunt.
  • for nonresidents to hunt bear with dogs, except in certain designated counties during the bear firearms season (see page 40). See page 8 for exception when tracking a mortally wounded deer or bear.
  • bear hunt in WV using an electronic call.
WV Bear Hunting

Field Tagging, Checking and Transporting Bears in WV

Each person killing a bear in West Virginia must attach a completed field tag to the bear or remain with the bear and have upon their person a completed field tag before moving the carcass from where it was killed. A person who does not have a tag must make one. This tag must bear the hunter’s name, address, hunting license number (if required) and the date, time and county of kill. Immediately upon arriving at a residence, camp, hunting lodge, vehicle or vessel, the field tag shall be attached to the bear and must remain on the carcass until it is tagged with a DNR-issued game tag number.

A person killing a bear must, within 24 hours after the kill, electronically register the bear. The DNR-issued 13-digit game check number and the hunter’s name and address must be affixed to the bear and shall remain on the skin until it is tanned or mounted.

No person may transport or possess wildlife killed by another hunter unless the wildlife or parts thereof is accompanied by a paper tag filled out legibly bearing the signature, address, date of kill, hunting license number (if required) and the DNR-issued game tag number (if required) of the hunter who killed the wildlife. The tag shall also specify the species and quantity of wildlife.

Bear Dog Training

Training dogs on bears in West Virginia or pursuing bears with dogs is defined as bear hunting, and all applicable regulations and license requirements apply.

Training for nonresidents is permitted from Sept. 1 – Mar. 31.

  • It is unlawful for a person to permit a dog owned by him or under his control to chase, pursue or follow the tracks of any deer or wild turkey.
  • Residents may train dogs on bear on private land with the landowner’s written permission, or on WV public land, at any time.
  • Persons training dogs may not have firearms or other implements for the taking of wildlife in their possession during closed seasons on wild animals and birds, except that a person who is not prohibited from possessing firearms by law may carry a firearm for self-defense.
  • A person may not be guilty of hunting without permission just because their dog, without their direction or encouragement, travels onto another person’s land where they do not have permission to hunt, providing no game is taken, livestock or domestic animals killed or damage done to that property. Dogs may not be retrieved without the landowner’s permission.
  • No person other than the owner of a registered dog may remove a tag, collar or other identifying apparel, nor remove or turn off a radio transmitting collar without the permission of the owner, unless it is necessary to prevent or treat an injury to the dog or is done by a law-enforcement officer for law enforcement purposes.

Special Youth, Class Q/QQ and Class XS WV Bear Season

This special bear season will be open to youth, ages 8 to 17, Class Q/ QQ holders and Class XS holders and will be held October 15-16, 2022, on private and public lands in 51 counties open to a firearms deer hunting season.

The use of dogs is prohibited during this season.

Daily bag limit is one bear that counts towards the hunter’s annual bag limit. Two black bears may be taken during the archery; crossbow; Special youth, Class Q/QQ and Class XS; and firearms seasons combined, provided that at least one bear must be taken in Boone, Fayette, Kanawha, Logan, McDowell, Mingo, Nicholas, Raleigh or Wyoming counties.

Hunters age 15-17 and Class Q/QQ holders are required to have a valid DS stamp, except for resident landowners hunting on their own land.

Urban Deer, Bear Archery, Crossbow Split Season

A special archery/crossbow deer/bear hunting split season is available between September 3-December 31, 2022, and January 9-31, 2023, to incorporated cities, towns, villages and incorporated homeowner associations. One bear may be taken during this season. Deer and bear taken in the Urban Deer/Bear Archery/ Crossbow Season shall not apply to the hunter’s regular archery and crossbow seasons bag limits. A valid DS stamp is required, except for underage resident and resident landowners hunting on their own land.

WV Bear Hunters are required to submit a first premolar tooth from each black bear that they kill.

A person who kills a bear shall submit a first premolar tooth to the Division of Natural Resources by January 31 of the year following the kill. The tooth should be secured to a card along with a label with the name and address of the hunter, date of kill, weapon used, whether dogs were used to kill the bear, county of kill and the game tag number, and either mailed or delivered to a DNR District Office or the DNR Elkins Operation Center.

Locating The Tooth

The first premolar teeth of black bear in West Virginia are located immediately behind the canine teeth (largest, sharpest teeth). There are four first premolar teeth (two on top, two on bottom) and any of those four teeth will meet the mandatory tooth submission requirement. The tooth is very small and can be easily broken when trying to remove it from the jaw.

In order for the tooth to be used for aging purposes, it must be unbroken. If you break a tooth trying to remove it from the jaw, there are three others that can be submitted. West Virginia bear hunters are encouraged to remove two or more teeth from their bear in the event that a tooth is lost in the mail. The skull of your bear will not be used in any mount (half mount, full mount, rug) that you have made and removing these teeth will not damage the skull itself.

Removing The Tooth

The first premolar teeth are most easily extracted when the bear is freshly killed (not frozen). Hunters are encouraged to
remove the tooth (or teeth) as soon as the bear is killed and before the skull and hide are frozen. In addition, hunters are
reminded that the tooth from their bear must be received by the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources by January 31 of the year following the kill.

The easiest way to remove a first premolar tooth is to use a knife with a wide blade. Cut the skin around the tooth (gum)
Then, place the back of the knife blade (the unsharpened side) against the large canine tooth and the sharpened edge against the first premolar tooth. Use the back of the knife blade (the unsharpened side) and the canine tooth for leverage to roll the first premolar tooth out of the bear’s jaw. Go to WVdnr.gov to watch a video about how to remove a bear’s first premolar tooth to successfully complete your license requirements when bear hunting in WV.

Submitting The Tooth

Hunters may mail or deliver the tooth from their bear to any DNR District Office or the DNR Elkins Operations Center
(mailing information can be found on the inside of the front cover of the Hunting and Trapping Regulations Summary).
If mailing a tooth, hunters can get a pre-addressed envelope provided by the DNR at all District offices and the Elkins
Operations Center.

If hunters do not have an envelope provided by DNR, the tooth should be secured to a card along with a label with the name and address of the hunter, date of kill, weapon used, whether dogs were used to kill the bear, county of kill, DNR ID number and game tag number. The card with the tooth attached should then be placed in an envelope and either mailed or delivered to a DNR District Office or the DNR Elkins Operation Center by January 31 of the year following the kill.

WV Bear Hunting Penalties and Fines

First Offense
$500 to $1,000 fine or 10 to 30 days in jail, or both. Also includes suspension of hunting and fishing licenses for two years if convicted of killing a bear in violation of the law.
Second Offense
$1,000 to $3,000 fine or 30 to 100 days to one year in jail, or both. Also includes suspension of hunting and fishing licenses for five years.
Third Offense
$2,500 to $5,000 fine or six months to one year in jail, or both. Also includes suspension of hunting and fishing licenses for 10 years.

Stay safe and find success this year during the West Virginia Bear Hunting Season.

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