The combination of a very mild winter and early spring conditions benefited black bears in Wisconsin, according to state wildlife officials, who say bears are abundant in the north and continue to expand their range into areas of central and western areas of the state. Prospects are good for the 2012 Wisconsin black bear hunting season that opens September 5, according to Kevin Wallenfang, big game ecologist for the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources.

There were 9,015 permits awarded for the 2012 season, a slight increase over the 9,005 permits issued in 2011. This year hunters not utilizing dogs will have the first week of the season to themselves. After the first week, all hunters including those using dogs will be allowed to pursue bears (except in Zone C where the use of dogs is not permitted). The last week of the season in zones A, B, and D is reserved for hunting with the aid of dogs only. The season runs through Oct. 9.

“Wisconsin ranks among the leaders in bear harvest in terms of both numbers and record-book entries,” Wallenfang said. Increased permit levels in 2011 resulted in hunters registering 4,257 bears, the second highest harvest ever recorded in the state, following the record kill of 5,133 bears in 2010. In 2011 Wisconsin harvested more bears than any other state. Zone A led all zones with 1,592 bears harvested. Zones B and D had nearly identical harvests, with 969 and 975 bears harvested, respectively, while zone C was responsible for 715 bears. Overall, hunters were most successful in zones B and D (64 percent and 66 percent success rates, respectively) followed by zone A (46 percent) and zone C (28 percent). Bayfield, Price, and Sawyer counties were the leading counties in harvest totals.

Wallenfang says the bear population in southern Wisconsin continues to expand, with hunters harvesting bears as far south as Trempealeau, Monroe, Juneau, Portage, Waupaca, and Outagamie counties.

Hunters harvested 3,612 of the bears with a gun, while bow hunters accounted for 552 bears. Hunting bears with bait was the primary hunting method with 2,705 bears harvested with this method, while dog hunters harvested 1,446 bears. Fifty-seven bears were harvested without the aid of bait or dogs.

Again this year, successful hunters will be required to submit both a tooth and rib sample at the time of registration to aid wildlife managers in estimating the age of harvested bears and in estimating the size of the state’s bear population.

“This data are essential for us to properly manage Wisconsin’s bear population,” Wallenfang said.

All of the materials necessary to submit these samples will be available at registration stations.

People looking for a place to hunt bears, should visit the DNR website and search for “state lands.” Wisconsin has an abundance of land open to hunting, including state, national, and county forests, state-owned wildlife areas, and private land enrolled in the Managed Forest Law (MFL) or Voluntary Public Access (VPA) programs. Combined, hunters have access to nearly seven million acres of land throughout Wisconsin!

Detailed information on bear hunting in Wisconsin, including the updated bear hunting regulations, is available on the DNR’s bear hunting website.

The deadline to apply for the 2013 bear season is December 10, 2012. Applications can be submitted online, by telephone at 1-877-945-4236, at any DNR service center, or at a DNR licensing agent.

Logo courtesy Wisconsin Department Of Natural Resources

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