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January 31, 2012

MADISON - A little more than 9,000 bear harvest permits will be available for the 2012 black bear season, about the same number of permits as last year.

The Natural Resources Board approved offering 9,015 harvest permits at their Jan. 25 meeting; a number nearly identical to the 2011 permit offering of 9,005, according to Kevin Wallenfang, Department of Natural Resources big game ecologist.

A bear population study completed in 2008 estimated a Wisconsin bear population of at least 22,000. State biologists set the recommended 2012 harvest goal at 4,600 bears.

"I think the state's bear hunters will be pretty happy with the prospects for 2012 and the generous number of permits to be issued," says Wallenfang. "Hunter application numbers increased yet again this year as interest in bear hunting continues to grow."

The annual drawing for black bear harvest permits is expected to take place soon and successful permit applicants should receive notification by mail in late February.

Approximately 27,000 hunters have applied for the 9,015 permits available for the 2012 season. An additional 77,598 applied for a preference point only.

"We would like to accommodate as many hunters as we can while keeping this a quality, memorable hunting experience," said Wallenfang, "But this is something we must approach responsibly and not over-hunt until we have another year of research under our belts. We need to verify earlier findings and evaluate bear population goals. Until then, we will take a cautious approach issuing permits at a level we feel will maintain the population at current levels."

A repeat of the 2008 mark-recapture population study began in spring 2011. Bears were "marked" when baits with tetracycline were placed in prime bear range. Tetracycline is a harmless antibiotic that deposits a marker in bones when consumed. To fulfill the "recapture" part of the study, successful bear hunters must submit one pre-molar tooth and a two-inch piece of rib from the bear they harvest. The samples are analyzed for the presence of tetracycline. The success of the population study relies on the bear tooth and rib samples submitted by hunters.

Wisconsin's preliminary 2011 black bear harvest total stands at 4,246. This number is expected to change only slightly in coming weeks as harvest data are fully entered and verified. Black bear harvests averaged roughly 3,000 from 1998 through 2008 when quotas were based on a lower estimated bear population. In 2009, harvest increased to more than 4,000 bears when permit levels increased 57 percent. Permit levels in 2010 increased an additional 22 percent, while permits levels in 2011 remained about the same as in 2010.

Applicants currently need to have collected between four and nine preference points in order to successfully draw a bear harvest permit. 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.

The permit breakdown by zone for 2012 is as follows: Zone A - 3,425 permits; Zone B - 1,335 permits: Zone C - 2,970 permits; and Zone D - 1,285 permits. The 2012 bear hunting season runs Sept. 5 through Oct. 9.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Kevin Wallenfang - (608) 261-7589

Last Revised: Tuesday, January 31, 2012

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