Bear Hunting Licenses: Resident and Nonresident Guidelines

Bear hunting in specific West Virginia counties offers an exciting opportunity for hunters, but it comes with specific regulations to ensure sustainable wildlife management. Hunters aiming for black bear need to understand the license privileges and requirements, whether they are residents or nonresidents.

Bear Bag Limits and Designated Counties

Hunters can harvest two black bears during the combined archery, crossbow, special youth, Class Q and XS, and firearms seasons. However, at least one bear must be taken in designated counties, including Boone, Fayette, Kanawha, Logan, McDowell, Mingo, Nicholas, Raleigh, or Wyoming. It's important to note that no person may take more than one bear per day.

License Combinations for Bear Hunting

To legally hunt black bear, individuals must possess one of the following valid license combinations:

  • Resident Licenses: Options include Classes X+DS, X3+DS, XP+DS, XP3+DS, XJ+DS, AHJ+DS, Class XS, AB-L+DS, A-L+DS, A+CS+DS+BG, or AH+CS+DS+BG.
  • Free Licenses: Available for Military, Disabled Veterans, Former POWs, Senior Citizens, or Class DT.
  • Nonresident Licenses: Include Classes EE+DS+CS/LE, Class DT, or Class EE-L.

Underage residents and resident landowners hunting on their own land may be exempt from requiring a license. However, those holding a Class DT license need to be accompanied by a responsible adult.

Additional Licenses for Specific Hunting Conditions

  • National Forest Lands: Hunters aiming to venture into National Forest lands need to acquire Class I or Class I-L licenses.
  • Handgun Hunting: For those intending to hunt with a handgun, a Class A-1 or Class A-1-L license is necessary and is mandatory for all hunters except resident landowners. Handgun hunters must be 18 or older.

Key Prohibitions in Bear Hunting

Bear hunting regulations are designed to promote ethical hunting practices and sustainable wildlife management. Understanding what is illegal is crucial for all hunters to ensure the conservation of bear populations and the integrity of the sport. Below are the primary prohibitions in bear hunting that must be strictly adhered to.

Baiting and Feeding Bears

  • Bait Usage: It is illegal to hunt bears using bait. This includes corn, grains, animal carcasses, grease, sugars, scent attractants, and other edible enticements. An area remains baited for ten days following the removal of all bait.
  • Feeding Bears: At no time is it permissible to bait or feed bears, not just during hunting seasons but throughout the year.

Weapon Restrictions

  • Shotgun Ammunition: Using a shotgun loaded with more than one solid ball is prohibited.
  • Rifle Caliber: Rifles less than .25 caliber using rimfire ammunition are not allowed.
  • Pistols and Revolvers: Use of a pistol or revolver must meet minimum caliber requirements. Straight-walled cases less than .357 magnum or bottlenecked cases less than .24 caliber are not permitted.
  • Muzzleloading Pistols: These must be of at least .38 caliber.
  • Air Rifles: Only those air rifles of at least .45 caliber and bullets of at least 200 grains are allowed.
  • Air Bows and Crossbows: Restrictions apply to air bows and crossbows, including string count, draw weight, bolt length, and broadhead specifications.
  • Explosive or Poisoned Projectiles: Using any arrow with explosive, drug-laced, or poisoned heads or shafts is strictly prohibited.

Time and Manner of Hunt

  • Hunting Hours: Bear hunting is only legal between 1/2 hour before sunrise and 1/2 hour after sunset.
  • Prohibited Methods: It is unlawful to use bait, poison, explosives, traps, or deadfalls in hunting bears.

Ethical and Size Considerations

  • Weight Limitations: It is illegal to shoot at or kill a bear weighing less than 75 pounds live or 50 pounds field dressed. Similarly, hunting bears accompanied by a cub or hunting any cub accompanied by another bear is prohibited.
  • Bag Limits: Hunters are restricted to killing no more than one bear per day and no more than two bears per year, with specific season exceptions.

Commercial and Nonresident Restrictions

  • Commercialization: Organizing commercial bear hunts, outfitting, or accepting any consideration or donations in connection with a bear hunt is illegal.
  • Nonresident Hunting with Dogs: Nonresidents are generally prohibited from hunting bear with dogs, except in designated counties and situations.

Use of Electronic Calls

  • Electronic Calls: The use of electronic calls in bear hunting is strictly prohibited.

Penalties for Chapter 20 Bear Law Violations

First Offense

  • Fine: Individuals convicted of a first offense can expect a fine ranging from $500 to $1,000.
  • Jail Time: Alternatively, or in addition, offenders may face 10 to 30 days in jail.
  • License Suspension: Conviction will also result in the suspension of hunting and fishing licenses for two years, particularly if the violation involves the illegal killing of a bear.

Second Offense

  • Increased Fine: For a second offense, the fine increases to between $1,000 and $3,000.
  • Longer Jail Time: Jail sentences for a second offense range from 30 days to 100 days, and can extend to one year.
  • Extended License Suspension: A second conviction leads to a longer suspension of hunting and fishing licenses, specifically for five years.

Third Offense

  • Hefty Fine: The fines for a third offense range significantly, from $2,500 to $5,000.
  • Substantial Jail Time: Offenders may face six months to one year in jail.
  • Decade-Long License Suspension: The suspension of hunting and fishing licenses extends to a decade for those convicted of a third offense.

Field Tagging, Checking, and Transporting Requirements for Bear Hunting

Field Tagging

Immediately after killing a bear, the hunter is required to attach a completed field tag to the carcass or remain with the bear until it is moved. This is mandatory before relocating the carcass from the kill site. If the hunter lacks an official tag, they must create one listing the following details:

  • Hunter's Name
  • Address
  • Hunting License Number (if applicable)
  • Date, Time, and County of Kill

Post-Kill Procedure

Once the hunter reaches a residence, camp, hunting lodge, vehicle, or vessel, the field tag must be securely attached to the bear. This tag needs to stay affixed until replaced by a West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) issued game tag number.

Registration and Tagging

Within 24 hours following the kill, the hunter must electronically register the bear. Post-registration, a WVDNR-issued 13-digit game check number, along with the hunter's name and address, must be attached to the bear. This identification should remain on the bear's skin until it is processed, either tanned or mounted.

Transporting and Possession

Transporting or possessing wildlife taken by another individual is strictly regulated. The wildlife or its parts must be accompanied by a paper tag with legible details including:

  • Signature of the hunter who made the kill
  • Address
  • Date of the kill
  • Hunting License Number (if applicable)
  • WVDNR-issued game tag number (if applicable)
  • Species and quantity of wildlife

Bear Dog Training Regulations


Utilizing dogs for bear hunting or pursuing bears is legally considered hunting and subjects the individuals to all relevant hunting regulations and licensing requirements. Here are the detailed rules and regulations:

Training Periods and Permissions

  • Nonresident Training: Allowed from September 1 to March 31.
  • Resident Training: Residents are permitted to train dogs on bears on private land with the landowner's written authorization or on public lands at any time.

Restrictions and Legalities

  • Wildlife Pursuit: It's unlawful for anyone to allow their dogs to chase or follow tracks of any deer or wild turkey. An exception exists for tracking mortally wounded animals, including deer, bear, wild turkey, or wild boar.
  • Firearms and Implements: During closed seasons, those training dogs may not carry firearms or any implements used for taking wildlife. However, individuals not prohibited by law can carry firearms strictly for self-defense.
  • Trespassing Concerns: A person isn't deemed guilty of hunting without permission if their dog enters another's land without their direction or encouragement, provided no game is taken or property damage occurs. Importantly, retrieving dogs from private properties requires the landowner's consent.
  • Dog Ownership Rights: No individual, other than the dog's registered owner, is allowed to remove tags, collars, or identifying apparel from the dog. Similarly, turning off a dog's radio transmitting collar is prohibited unless it's to prevent or treat an injury or conducted by law enforcement for official duties.

Special Split Youth, Class Q, and Class XS Bear Season Details

Eligibility and Season Structure

This special bear hunting season is specifically designed for young hunters aged 8 to 17, as well as holders of Class Q and Class XS permits.

  • First Segment (With or Without Dogs): Scheduled for September 16-17, 2023, this segment allows hunting on both private and public lands in designated areas across 26 counties. During this time, bears may be hunted with or without the aid of dogs.

  • Second Segment (Without Dogs): Taking place on October 21-22, 2023, this portion of the season occurs on private and public lands in 51 counties known for firearms deer hunting seasons. The use of dogs for hunting bears is not allowed during this period.

Bag Limits and Restrictions

  • Daily Bag Limit: Hunters are allowed one bear per day, which contributes to the individual's annual bag limit.
  • Seasonal Bag Limit: Throughout the various combined seasons (archery, crossbow, Special Split Youth, Class Q, and Class XS, and firearms), hunters may harvest up to two black bears. However, at least one bear must be taken from specified counties (Boone, Fayette, Kanawha, Logan, McDowell, Mingo, Nicholas, Raleigh, or Wyoming).

Licensing and Additional Regulations

  • License Requirements: Specific licensing requirements apply to youth, senior, and Class Q hunters. Detailed information can be found in the provided guide.
  • DS Stamp: Hunters aged 15-17 and Class Q holders are generally required to have a valid DS stamp unless they are resident landowners hunting on their own land.
  • General and Specific Regulations: For comprehensive hunting rules, including field tagging, checking, and transporting of bears, hunters should refer to the relevant pages of the hunting guide.

Urban Deer/Bear Archery/Crossbow Split Season Overview

Season Dates and Eligibility

This special season is tailored for archery and crossbow hunters targeting deer and bear within urban settings, such as cities, towns, villages, and incorporated homeowner associations.

  • Season Dates: The split season runs from September 9 to December 31, 2023, and resumes from January 8 to January 31, 2024.
  • Bear Quota: Hunters may take one bear during this season.

Bag Limit Regulations

  • Separate Bag Limits: Deer and bear harvested during the Urban Deer/Bear Archery/Crossbow Season do not count towards the hunter's regular archery and crossbow seasons bag limits, allowing hunters additional opportunities outside of their standard seasonal limits.

Licensing Requirements

  • DS Stamp: A valid DS stamp is required for participating hunters, with exceptions for underage residents and resident landowners hunting on their property.
  • Additional Details: For further information on regulations, including specific dates and additional requirements, hunters are directed to consult the referenced guide.

Black Bear Premolar Tooth Submission Guidelines

Mandatory Submission

Hunters who successfully harvest a black bear are required to submit a first premolar tooth from each bear they kill. The tooth is essential for the West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) to collect data for bear population and health studies.


The tooth must be submitted to the WVDNR by January 31 of the year following the kill.

Locating and Removing the Tooth

  • Location: The first premolar teeth are located immediately behind the canine teeth. Each bear has four of these teeth (two on the top and two on the bottom), and any one of them can be submitted.
  • Extraction: It is easiest to extract the tooth when the bear is freshly killed. Hunters should use a knife with a wide blade to cut the gum around the tooth and then gently lever it out using the back of the knife blade against the canine tooth.

Packaging and Labeling

  • Securing the Tooth: Attach the tooth to a card and label it with the hunter's name, address, date of kill, weapon used, usage of dogs in the hunt, county of kill, and the game tag number.
  • Delivery: The packaged tooth can either be mailed or delivered directly to any WVDNR district office or the WVDNR Elkins Operation Center. Pre-addressed envelopes for mailing are available at these locations.

Tips for Hunters

  • Avoid Damage: Ensure the tooth is unbroken for it to be viable for aging studies. If one breaks during extraction, remove another as a substitute.
  • Preparation: Hunters are encouraged to extract multiple teeth in case of loss or damage during the mailing process.
  • Mounting: Removing the premolar teeth does not affect the quality of any bear mount (half mount, full mount, rug) the hunter may wish to prepare.


For more detailed instructions and visual aids, hunters can visit the WVDNR website to view a video demonstration of the proper technique for removing a bear's first premolar tooth.

Bear Archery and Crossbow Seasons Overview

Daily and Annual Bag Limits

  • Daily Bag Limit: Hunters are limited to one bear per day during the season.
  • Annual Limit: Throughout the archery, crossbow, Special Youth, Class Q and Class XS, and firearms seasons combined, no individual may harvest more than two bears. However, at least one bear must be sourced from specified counties (Boone, Fayette, Kanawha, Logan, McDowell, Mingo, Nicholas, Raleigh, or Wyoming).

Season Dates

  • Statewide: The bear archery and crossbow seasons run from September 30 to December 31, 2023.

Hunting Regulations

  • Dogs: The use of dogs for bear hunting is strictly prohibited during the bear archery and crossbow seasons. An exception is made for the use of dogs to track a mortally wounded bear.
  • Firearm Substitution: A bow or crossbow may replace a firearm during the bear firearms season when hunting with dogs in counties where this practice is legal.

Safety and Clothing

  • Blaze Orange Requirement: Bear hunters must wear at least 400 square inches of blaze orange over their outer clothing while hunting in any county (or part thereof) that is open during a deer firearms or muzzleloader season. This requirement does not extend to waterfowl hunters or individuals engaged in farming activities on their own land.

Firearms Season for Bear Hunting Overview

Daily and Annual Bag Limits

  • Daily Bag Limit: One bear per day is allowed.
  • Annual Limit: A total of two bears may be taken annually across all combined seasons (archery, crossbow, and firearms), with the stipulation that at least one bear must be harvested from the specified counties (Boone, Fayette, Kanawha, Logan, McDowell, Mingo, Nicholas, Raleigh, or Wyoming).

Firearms Season Dates and Locations

  • First Segment: October 26-29 in portions of counties open to antlerless deer hunting on both public and private land.
  • Second Segment: November 20–December 31 in selected counties.
  • Third Segment: November 20–December 3 specifically for counties like Boone, Fayette, Gilmer, Kanawha, Nicholas, Raleigh, and Ritchie.

Weapon Substitutions and Hunting with Dogs

  • Weapon Choice: Hunters may substitute a bow or crossbow for a firearm during the bear firearms season.
  • Hunting with Dogs: Hunting with dogs may be allowed or restricted depending on the specific rules for the season and area.

Safety Regulations

  • Blaze Orange Requirement: Bear hunters must wear at least 400 square inches of blaze orange over their outer clothing while hunting in any county (or part thereof) that is open during a deer firearms or muzzleloader season. Exceptions are made for waterfowl hunters and individuals engaged in farming activities on their own land.

Season Dates and Regulations

  • Hunting with Dogs: The season specifies if hunters may use dogs. Be sure to check specific dates and locations for regulations.
  • Season Dates and Areas:
    • December 4-31: Open in various counties for hunting with or without dogs.
    • October 7-13 and December 4-31: Specific dates for certain counties.
    • September 2-10 and December 4-31: Additional open dates for designated areas.

Counties for Hunting

West Virginia Bear Hunting Laws & Regulations
  • Various Openings: The season spans a range of counties with specific dates and rules. Hunters need to check the exact regulations for the counties they plan to hunt in to ensure compliance.

Bear Reproductive Tract Collection Procedures

West Virginia wildlife biologists are engaged in the collection of female bear reproductive tracts to gather essential data on the bear population. This data includes the breeding age of females, cub production, age structure of the female population, and overall reproductive success. Hunters are encouraged to participate by following these procedures:

Contact Information

For assistance, you may contact any WVDNR district office or the Elkins Operations Center using the provided phone numbers.

Collection Procedures

  1. Open Bear Abdominal Cavity: Make an incision to access the internal organs of the bear.
  2. Move Intestines Aside: Gently reposition the intestines to reveal the lower abdominal organs.
  3. Locate the Bladder: Identify the bladder to help locate the uterus and ovaries.
  4. Find the Uterus: The uterus is situated underneath the bladder and above the large intestine.
  5. Remove Uterus and Ovaries: Carefully cut the uterus and ovaries away from the surrounding fat and connective tissue. Ensure to collect both ovaries, which are roughly the size of acorns and may be embedded in fat.
  6. Store and Notify: Place the collected reproductive tract in a plastic bag and refrigerate or freeze it. Promptly notify the WVDNR personnel at any district office or the Elkins Operations Center. Ensure you have all necessary contact information from the 2023-2024 Hunting and Trapping Regulations Summary.
  7. Instructional Video: For a more detailed guide, hunters are encouraged to watch the instructional video on the WVDNR website on how to remove a bear's reproductive tract.

Incentive for Submitting Female Black Bear Reproductive Tracts

Program Overview

The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources (WVDNR) is offering an incentive to encourage hunters to contribute to monitoring black bear reproductive rates. The first 100 hunters to submit a complete female black bear reproductive tract are eligible to receive a $20 gift card.

Eligibility and Requirements

  • Complete Reproductive Tract: A full tract including both forks of the uterus up to the point they join and form a "Y" shape is required. A reference photo is available in the hunting regulations for guidance.
  • Labeling: Each submission must be clearly labeled with:
    • Hunter's name and address
    • Phone number
    • WVDNR ID number
    • Date of kill
    • Usage of dogs in the kill
    • County of kill
    • 13-digit game check number
  • Premolar Tooth: In addition to the regular submission to the WVDNR for aging purposes, an extra premolar tooth must be provided with the reproductive tract.

Submission and Reward

  • Where to Submit: Hunters can send their submissions to the Elkins Operations Center or the nearest WVDNR district office. Contact information can be found in the hunting regulations.
  • Timing for Gift Cards: Eligible hunters can expect to receive their gift cards 2-3 months after the hunting season concludes.

Reporting Tagged Bears

All bears captured and released in West Virginia are marked for identification and research purposes. Hunters who harvest a tagged bear are required to report it to their nearest WVDNR district office. Here's what to look for and how to proceed:

  • Ear Tags: Look for silver metal tags approximately 1.5 inches long in both ears.
  • Plastic Tags: Some bears may also have round plastic tags, which could be black or orange.
  • Tattoos: Typically, a tagged bear will have a tattoo on their upper lip, displaying a number that matches their ear tag.
  • Tracking Collars: If the bear has a tracking collar, it should be returned to the WVDNR.
  • Safety Confirmation: Upon reporting, the WVDNR can provide information about when the bear was immobilized and confirm if it's safe to consume.
Wild Advisor Pro


The legal advice provided on Wild Advisor Pro is intended as a summary of the hunting, camping, hiking, and fishing laws and regulations and does not constitute legal language or professional advice. We make every effort to ensure the information is accurate and up to date, but it should not be relied upon as legal authority. For the most current and comprehensive explanation of the laws and regulations, please consult the official government websites or a qualified legal professional. Wild Advisor Pro is not responsible for any misunderstandings or misinterpretations of the information presented and shall not be held liable for any losses, damages, or legal disputes arising from the use of this summary information. Always check with the appropriate governmental authorities for the latest information regarding outdoor regulations and compliance.