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Agriculture damage from black bears - who farmers should contact?

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Published: August 30, 2011 by the Central Office

MADISON -- Within the next several weeks the majority of corn across the state will enter the "milk stage." This is the period when corn is especially vulnerable to damage from bears that are attracted to the sweet milky white starches that accumulates in the corn kernel.

Wisconsin's Wildlife Damage Abatement and Claims Program (WDACP) is available to farmers experiencing damages to crops, apiaries, or livestock depredations from bear. The program provides damage abatement assistance and partial compensation to enrolled farmers in exchange for them allowing hunting access during the state bear hunting season. In 2010, 268 farmers enrolled in the WDACP for bear damage abatement assistance.

Wisconsin laws do not allow a person to shoot a bear causing damage to crops under any circumstances without a permit. Conservation wardens, who are primarily responsible for enforcing these laws, do however have the authority to use discretion in cases where a bear is discovered in the act of attacking domestic animals or if human life is at risk. In these cases, persons who find themselves in this situation need to contact a conservation warden law or local law enforcement agency and leave the scene undisturbed. Intact evidence is crucial to applying common sense and discretion.

Shooting a bear without DNR authorization could result in charges being filed against individual who shot the bear. If a bear is shot in the act of threatening personal safety or in the act of killing, wounding or biting a live domestic animal, the department will investigate on a case by case basis to determine if killing a bear before obtaining department permission was necessary and justified under the circumstances. In these situations the department should be contacted immediately and the bear carcass should not be moved unless otherwise directed by the department.

How to enroll

Farmers who suffer crop or apiary damage from bears and want to enroll in the WDACP should contact their county's wildlife damage specialist. The list of contacts in each county can be found on the DNR's website at: dnr.wi.gov, keyword search "WDACP Contacts."

In 2010 the Department issued 25 bear shooting permits to landowners for bears causing agricultural damage or nuisance problems.

For suspected bear depredations, or any non-agricultural problem with bears, farmers and landowners should contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture -Wildlife Services toll-free line at 1-800-433-0663 for southern Wisconsin and 1-800-228-1368 for northern Wisconsin. When calling after normal business hours or on weekends farmers should leave a message with their contact information. Messages are checked periodically after hours and on weekends. The DNR partners with U.S. Department of Agriculture -Wildlife Services to investigate bear depredation complaints and also for bear trapping and relocation services.

A list of properties enrolled in the WDACP that are open to bear hunting can be found on the DNR's website at dnr.wi.gov, keyword search "Damage Program." A list of properties where bear shooting permits have been issued can also be found on the same webpage.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Brad Koele, DNR Wildlife Damage Specialist (608)266-2151

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Last Revised: Tuesday, August 30, 2011