MADISON - Hunters registered just more than 4,400 black bears during the 2012 black bear season in Wisconsin, which state wildlife officials say is the second highest number on record. Hunters registered 5,133 bears in 2010 and 4,257 in 2011.
Wisconsin is known throughout the country as having both large bear as well as an abundant population that lives primarily in the northern third and central forest area of the state, according to Kevin Wallenfang, big game ecologist for the Department of Natural Resources.
"In recent years, bear have become more common throughout the state including many central and southern counties. We had a bear reported as far south as Green County this year, and we're hearing of more bear living year-round in many central counties," he says.
Bear hunters have until midnight on Dec. 10 to apply for a harvest permit for the 2013 hunting season, or preference point for future years. The number of permits available for the 2013 black bear hunt has not yet been determined.
"We are currently looking at information from the 2011 and 2012 hunts, and will present our recommended harvest levels to the Natural Resources Board in January," Wallenfang says.
The DNR, with the help of volunteers from the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association and other cooperators, has been conducting research to better estimate the number of bear in the state. A similar study done in 2006 showed significantly more than previously estimated, so harvest quotas and permits were increased.
"We are likely now to the point where we will need to consider backing off on permit levels in some areas this year," Wallenfang said.
Wisconsin's bear harvest permits are strictly limited, and hunters must apply for several years before receiving a permit.
"We had more than 104,000 applications for just over 9,000 permits last year," Wallenfang says. The wait time to receive a permit varies by management zone and has been running between four and nine years, and could increase if harvest quotas are reduced.
Hunters are reminded that in order to retain their accumulated preference points, they must apply at least once during any three consecutive year period or they will lose all previously accumulated preference points. If a zone is selected at the time of purchase and the hunter is selected in the February drawing, their preference points will be reset to zero, even if they do not purchase the harvest permit. Winners in the drawing will be notified by mail shortly after the drawing and may purchase their 2013 Class A bear license beginning March 6.
The 2013 bear season begins Sept. 4 and runs through Oct. 8 with hound hunters starting first in most zones.
Applications for the permit drawing cost $3 and may be purchased through the Online Licensing Center on the DNR website, at all authorized license agents, at DNR Service Centers (Hours for service centers vary; check the DNR website for service center days and hours of operation; DNR Service Centers are not open on Saturdays), or by calling toll-free 1-877-LICENSE (1-877-945-4236). Applications postmarked after the December 10th deadline, or those which have been filled out incorrectly, will not be considered for the drawings. Hunters can check their preference point status 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.
For more information search for keyword "bear" on the DNR website.
FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kevin Wallenfang, big game specialist, 608- 261-7589 or Scott Roepke, assistant big game specialist, 608-261-7588