The state Natural Resources Board today approved the Department of Natural Resources’ recommendation to offer just over 8,500 bear harvest permits for the 2013 Wisconsin black bear season.

“We will issue 8,560 permits for the upcoming season with a harvest goal of 4,000 bears,” said Kevin Wallenfang, DNR big game ecologist. “These numbers are slightly reduced compared to 2012, but will offer above average harvest opportunities.”

According to Wallenfang, four years of increased permit levels was successful in reducing bear numbers in the north, but populations remain high in other parts of the state. Therefore zones A and B will see a reduction of permits, but there will be an increase of permits in zones C and D.

The permit breakdown by zone [PDF] for 2013 is as follows: Zone A – 2,130 permits; Zone B – 690 permits: Zone C – 4,110 permits; and Zone D – 1,630 permits.

A bear population study started in 2011 estimates Wisconsin’s current bear population to be approximately 18,500. More than 4,600 bears were harvested in 2012 according to preliminary counts.

Black bear harvests averaged roughly 3,000 from 1998 through 2008 when quotas were based on a lower estimated bear population. In 2006, a mark-recapture population study was put in motion that estimated bear numbers to be higher than previously estimated. As a result, harvest increased to record highs from 2009 to 2012.

“We saw record harvest levels the past few years because more permits were issued in an attempt to decrease the bear population,” Wallenfang said. “The Bear Hunters Association and other groups are supportive of getting back to more normal harvest levels after intentional record kills. Despite a slight decrease this year, we’re still going to see exceptional hunting opportunities compared to just five or six years ago.”

Interest in bear hunting continues to grow with more than 106,000 applications received by the Dec. 10 application deadline for the 2013 season. Approximately 22,600 hunters applied to draw a permit while an additional 83,942 hunters applied for a preference point only.

“Hunter application numbers increased yet again this year as interest in bear hunting continues to grow,” said Wallenfang. “We would like to accommodate as many hunters as we can, keeping this a quality, memorable hunting experience while ensuring a sustainable and healthy bear population.”

The annual drawing for black bear harvest permits will take place in February and successful permit applicants will receive notification by mail by Mar. 1. The 2013 bear hunting season runs Sept. 4 through Oct. 8.

Applicants currently need to have collected between three and nine preference points in order to successfully draw a bear harvest permit, the exact number depending on their preferred hunting area and growing hunter interest. Hunters can check their preference point status in one of three ways: by visiting the Online Licensing Center, by calling Customer Service & Licensing toll-free at 1-888-WDNRINFo (1-888-936-7463), or by contacting a local DNR service center.

Logo courtesy Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources

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