Massachusetts hunters set records in 2020 for having killed more wild turkeys and black bears than during any other hunting seasons on record, and the total number of deer taken in 2020 is topped only by the total from 2018, the Division of Fisheries and Wildlife said this week.
In announcing the preliminary harvest totals, MassWildlife said the new records and the near-record "can most likely be attributed to the increase in hunter effort that resulted from COVID-19 closures" that drove many people to spend more time outdoors in 2020.
There were 325 black bears taken last year, breaking the previous record of 283 bears set in 2014, MassWildlife said.
Officials said they were not surprised by the number because bear hunting seasons tend to be cyclical and the last few years saw "relatively low" numbers of bears killed. They also said that the number "reflects the continued growth and expansion of the Massachusetts bear population."
Most of the bears hunted in Massachusetts last year were in Berkshire County. Hunters killed 113 bears there, 80 bears in Franklin County, 62 bears in Hampden County, 48 bears in Hampshire County, 21 bears in Worcester County and one bear in Middlesex County, according to wildlife officials.
The 2020 spring wild turkey season saw hunters bag 3,310 turkeys, more than any spring on record. During the fall season, hunters took 256 of the birds, which is more than in any fall in more than 20 years, MassWildlife said.
MassWildlife said hunters killed 14,331 deer in 2020, more than any other year on record aside from 2018. That season, hunters harvested a record 14,516 deer. The agency said its biologists estimate there are more than 100,000 deer statewide in Massachusetts, ranging from 12 to 18 deer per square mile in the western and central parts of the state to more than 50 deer per square mile on Martha's Vineyard and Nantucket and in eastern parts of the state where hunting is restricted.