Don’t forget to submit a bear tooth

The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources provides the above diagram online so hunters can properly remove a bear’s first premolar. The DNR requires that a tooth be extracted from each bear killed. The tooth is to be submitted for research purposes. Photo courtesy of

Suzanne Stewart
Staff Writer

Sometimes the smallest part of an animal contains the most information about its life. Take the black bear for instance: the average adult bear is 240 pounds, yet, the first premolar tooth of said bear can reveal its diet, lifestyle and much more.

The West Virginia Division of Natural Resources requires that bear hunters submit a premolar for each bear they kill. 

While the rule has always been in place, the DNR starting cracking down on it in the past three years due to the change in check-in stations.

“They were collecting at check stations, and we had the regular check stations where you had to bring the bear in,” DNR officer Matthew Barkley said. “When they went to an electronic check-in system, they don’t have to bring in the bears to a check station anymore, so they wanted to make sure they were still going to get bear teeth for data, so they made it a law.”

Barkley said it is important for hunters to make the tooth extraction a part of their field dressing routine to ensure the tooth is prepared for submission.

“It’s better to pull that tooth when the bear’s still warm,” he said. “It pops out really easy. They have to field tag it, and then they have to check it in, so they should pull the tooth early.”

Hunters are asked to mail the tooth to the DNR Elkins Operation Center where it is tested and logged. Tests on the tooth can determine the overall health of a bear, its diet, habitat and more.

“If there’s any type of diseases that might be starting in the bear population, they can find that,” Barkley said.

Once the information has been compiled, the DNR adds it to the database and sends a copy of the information to the hunter.

Information on how to properly extract the tooth may be found online at: Regs1617/Bear.pdf

To submit a bear tooth, attach it to an index card and mail it to: DNR Elkins Operation Center, PO Box 67, Elkins, WV 26241.
The tooth must be submitted by January 31 of the year following the kill.

To download the regulation book which contains the bear tooth law along with all other DNR hunting regulations, visit

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