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April 19, 2011

MADISON - People can help state wildlife officials monitor and document the expanding distribution of black bears and bobcats in the state by reporting observations through an online reporting form.

"As spring arrives and wildlife become more active and people get out-of-doors more, we encourage hunters, hikers and others enjoying the outdoors to report when they see black bears and bobcats," says Becky Roth, DNR biologist at Spring Green.

Black bears and bobcats are commonly found in the northern and central forest regions of Wisconsin and much of their populations still live in these forested counties. However, recent range expansion by both species has led to more frequent sightings in southern counties, Roth said.

Biologists have been tracking evidence of bears in the southern third of the state, an area that is outside of their normal range as shown in this bear distribution map. The public is encouraged to report these bear sightings, tracks, scat, claw marks or hair through the online site or call their local wildlife management office. Past efforts by the public have allowed the DNR to produce a map of black bear sightings in Southern Wisconsin.

June is the breeding season for bears in Wisconsin and "most bear sightings we receive in southern counties occur during late May and June when sub-adult bears, mostly young males, are forced out of breeding territories up north and disperse long distances in search of new habitat. But we have already been receiving reports this month," Roth says.

The wooded hills, coulees, creeks and river bottoms southwestern Wisconsin's Driftless area provide abundant food and cover for bears as well as potential winter den sites, so it's possible that wandering bears will find it to their liking and some may decide to stay.

"Although we've had a few instances in past years when bears have stayed around southern counties through the summer, most leave the area and presumably return north as the breeding season ends," she says.

Last year, however, we were getting reports of sows with cubs and sows with yearlings which resulted in continued bear sightings throughout the summer. This is because female bears with their young cubs or yearlings are less likely to move long distances over a short time period.

The DNR is also looking for help in collecting evidence of bobcats. The public is encouraged to report all bobcat observations, tracks, or scat from all parts of Wisconsin. As of September 2010, Wisconsinites reported more than 100 bobcats via the online bear and bobcat observation site. Using information from wildlife managers, personal correspondence, and the online reporting form, a map of bobcat sightings has been produced.

"Citizen monitoring has proven to be a valuable tool in resource management and an opportunity for interested citizens to contribute to our knowledge of wildlife and habitat trends," said Brian Dhuey, DNR's wildlife surveys coordinator.

The DNR also asks people to email any photos taken of the black bear or bobcat to wildlife management; this can be done directly from the reporting form.

"Trail cameras that have been placed in the woods as scouting tools are oftentimes a good source of photo evidence. This is especially valuable for bobcats, as they are secretive animals and tracking their distribution is often times difficult," Dhuey says. Previous photos can be viewed on the DNR's trail camera gallery.

Other endangered or rare animal sightings can be reported using the DNR Bureau of Endangered Resources Rare Mammal Observation form. Use this form to report sightings of wolf, moose, cougar, lynx, wolverine, marten, or Franklin's ground squirrel.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: Becky Roth (608) 588-3432; Brian Dhuey (608) 221-6342; Brad Koele (608)266-2151

Last Revised: Tuesday, April 19, 2011

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