LRP - Licenses

LRP - Regulations

LRP - Permits

Recreation - Everyone

Recreation - Trapping

Recreation - Fishing

Recreation - Hunting

Education - Everyone

Education - Kids

Education - Educators

To sign up for updates or to access your subscriber preferences, please enter your contact information below.

Sign up
for hunter safety. Required if you were born on or after January 1, 1973.
your hunting license.
for a permit and check permit status online.
the regulations.
Contact information
For information on bear population and distribution, contact:
David MacFarland
Carnivore specialist
Bureau of Wildlife Management

Black bear population status and distribution

bear map

Wisconsin's occupied bear range is expanding, which means residents can expect to see black bears in areas outside of the bear's traditional range. An abundant population and suitable bear habitat have facilitated the southerly movement of occupied bear range in Wisconsin. Wisconsin's black bear population is considerably higher than it was 20 years ago. Wisconsin's bear population was estimated to be about 9,000 bears in 1989. A 2012 study indicated the bear population is currently between 20,000 and 25,000 bears. DNR manages bears population size through regulated hunting. The number of hunting permits has been increased following studies showing higher numbers of bears. Over the next year, opportunities will be provided to the public to comment on desired numbers of bears in each of the state's bear management regions as the DNR prepares a new bear management plan.

Wisconsin is not alone in their expanding bear range. The results from a 2008 survey of eastern United States and Canadian Provinces that actively manage black bear populations indicated that 75% of these jurisdictions report an increase in bear range. Only Vermont reported a contracting bear range.

Last revised: Friday January 23 2015