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September 1, 2015

MADISON - The black bear population has remained stable throughout most of Wisconsin -- a welcome sign for bear hunters as they prepare for another fall hunting season.

The past six seasons have ranked as the top six bear harvests in Wisconsin history, and this trend is likely to continue with a record number of permits made available in 2015 (10,690). Wisconsin consistently ranks as one of the top bear harvest states in the country.

Interest in Wisconsin bear hunting continues to grow, with more than 109,000 applications received in 2015 (compared to 108,271 in 2014 and 106,500 in 2013). Bear populations have remained relatively stable at over 25,000 bears statewide.

"Wisconsin has one of the largest black bear populations in the country and high hunter success rates--this combination makes it a great place to hunt," said Dave MacFarland, DNR large carnivore specialist.

Bear hunters should be aware of a few important changes to bear hunting regulations in 2015. State law was recently changed to eliminate the Class B bear license; a Class B license is no longer required to bait bears, train dogs to track bears, act as a back-up shooter, or assist hunters with pursuing bears (provided that a person does not shoot, shoot at, capture, take or kill the bear unless acting as a back-up shooter). Any individual may now participate in bear hunting and training activities without a Class B bear license any time those activities are permitted and in compliance with applicable regulations.

Also new in 2015, hunters must submit a bear tooth directly to the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources in lieu of registration stations. Hunters who successfully drew a bear harvest permit for 2015 were provided with instructions and materials required to submit a tooth. These age data are used as part of a population model that helps estimate the size of Wisconsin's bear population. For more information regarding tooth collection, visit and search keyword "bear registration."

The number of preference points required to draw a bear harvest permit in 2014 ranged from one in Zone C to nine in Zone B. "Although wait times may be several years in some of the northern zones, Zone C gives hunters a great opportunity to participate more frequently," said MacFarland.

In 2014, hunters harvested 4,526 bears - the third highest harvest in state history. Bear Management Zone D led all zones with 1,444 bears harvested, followed by Zone A (1,315), Zone C (1,024) and Zone B (738). Bayfield County led all counties with 445 bears harvested, followed by Price (321), Rusk (307) and Sawyer (291). In 2014, hunter harvest success was highest in Zone B, with a 75 percent success rate. Zone B was followed by Zone D (65 percent success), Zone A (64 percent success) and Zone C (20 percent success).

Gun hunters harvested 3,776 bears in 2014, while bow hunters accounted for 695 bears. A majority of bears were harvested using bait (3,395), but the use of both dogs and bait (995) and neither dogs nor bait (69) was also successful.

In zones A, B and D, the first week of the harvest season will be reserved for hunters using dogs to pursue bear. In turn, the last week of the season is reserved solely for hunters who use bait and other legal methods (excluding the use of dogs). In Zone C, the use of dogs is prohibited.

The deadline to apply for a 2016 bear harvest permit or preference point is Dec. 10, 2015. Hunters are reminded that they must apply for a preference point or harvest permit at least once every three years in order to maintain their accumulated preference point total. Hunters may apply online at, keyword "license," or at any DNR service center or licensing agent. For additional information, call 1-888-WDNRINFo (1-888-936-7463).

Hunters who successfully draw a harvest permit and are interested in transferring the permit to a youth hunter can search keywords "bear transfer." For more information regarding bears in Wisconsin, search keyword "bear."

To receive email updates regarding bear hunting in Wisconsin, visit and click on the email icon near the bottom of the page titled "subscribe for updates for DNR topics," then follow the prompts and select the "black bear" distribution list.

FOR MORE INFORMATION CONTACT: David MacFarland, DNR Large Carnivore Specialist, 715-365-8917

Last Revised: Tuesday, September 01, 2015

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