DNR ups state bear permits
MADISON -- More black bears are killed by hunters in Wisconsin than in any other state, and this year hunters can kill more as the Department of Natural Resources Board increased the number of quotas and permits. Hunters took 4,639 bears in 2016 ...
MADISON - More black bears are killed by hunters in Wisconsin than in any other state, and this year hunters can kill more as the Department of Natural Resources Board increased the number of quotas and permits.
Hunters took 4,639 bears in 2016 when the quota was 4,750. The DNR issued 11,520 permits statewide. On Wednesday, the Natural Resources Board upped the harvest quota to 5,000 and the number of permits to 12,850.
More bears are harvested in Wisconsin's far northwest counties, where the number and density of bears is also the highest. There are 1.7 bears per square mile in northwest Wisconsin, compared to one bear per square mile in the rest of the state, said David McFarland, a large carnivore specialist with the DNR.
Last year, hunters took 1,625 bears in the far northwest counties, which the DNR designates as Zone D. That zone includes Douglas County, most of Bayfield County, Ashland County north of State Highway 77 and west of State Highway 13 and State Highway 169, all of Washburn and Burnett counties, northwest Sawyer County, and Polk and St. Croix counties north of US Highway 8.
More bears were killed in Bayfield County (410) than in any other county in the state in 2015, the most recent year statistics were available from the DNR. Price County recorded the second-most bear kills at 283, followed by 269 in Douglas County. Ashland County had 214 bears taken during the 2015 season.
Since bears are generating more nuisance calls and agricultural damage in Sawyer and Washburn counties than in the rest of Zone D, the DNR increased the number of permits this year in hopes to reduce the bear population in that area, McFarland said.
"We've had some reduction in population in Zone D and the quotas that were just issued should continue that," he said.
The success rate for Zone D hunters, those who kill a bear, was 62 percent.
Would-be hunters greatly exceed the number of permits issued annually, leading to long wait times for permits. Last year, about 110,000 people applied for less than 12,000 permits, McFarland said.
Permits are distributed through a preference point system that gives unsuccessful applicants who applied, but did not receive a permit in previous years, the first chance to receive a kill permit the following year.
McFarland attributes the high number of hunters seeking permits to Wisconsin's "excellent bear hunting," with high density levels and high success rates, too.
Zone A extends east to US Highway 51, south to State Highway 64 and borders Zone D to the west. Zone A hunters had a 64 percent success rate last year with 1,655 permits issued and 1,146 bears harvested. This year's quota increases to 1,200 and permits increase to 1,925.
Hunters typically can get a permit every year for Zone C, which roughly lies south of State Highway 64, said McFarland, but its success rate was only 17 percent last year.
Successful hunters are asked to mail a tooth from the bear they shot which the DNR uses along with bears they trap to monitor the age, sex, fertility and overall health of the state's bear population.
Bears have not been a big problem for the state's growing elk population, said McFarland, but they are more frequent predators of whitetail deer.
Bear season begins Sept. 6 and continues through Oct. 10.