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The Wisconsin Black Bear Management Plan 2019 – 2029 was developed by the DNR Bear Advisory Committee and approved by the Natural Resources Board in May, 2019. The plan is intended to both guide future management actions and provide the interested public a concise and informative overview of black bear ecology and management in Wisconsin. It contains detailed information on black bear ecology and population dynamics, the history of black bears in Wisconsin, and the goals, objectives, and strategies intended to guide bear management over the next decade. This document will serve to anchor bear management in the best available science, and we hope it will also serve as effective communication tool for the people of Wisconsin. Among the changes are new zones which will not go into effect until the 2021 black bear season; current zones will therefore remain in place for both the 2019 and 2020 bear seasons. Many thanks to all who provided input and helped to create the updated plan!

Black bear management

Wisconsin is home to a thriving black bear population estimated at more than 28,000 bears. The black bear's primary range is located in the far northern third of the state. Due to a growing population, bears are becoming much more common in the lower two-thirds of the state than ever before.

Wisconsin's bear population is managed primarily though hunting by offering hunters a quality experience while being managed under a strict quota/permit issuance system designed to ensure the long-term future of the population. More than 109,000 hunters applied for 11,520 permits in 2016, making the wait to receive a harvest permit approximately 1 to 9 years, depending on the bear management zone. However, when one finally receives a permit, the opportunity to harvest a bear is better than 40 percent for most zones and some of the biggest bears in the country are taken in Wisconsin. Several bears registered by hunters each year top 600 or 700 pounds!

Wildlife biologists in Wisconsin conducted research that provided better information about bear numbers in the state, which helps develop guidelines that will ensure a prosperous future for the species. This research was highly dependent on the help of volunteers, who placed thousands of baits throughout the north each year. The bait was laced with a dye that settled in a bear's bones once eaten. If a bear that had eaten the bait was harvested during the hunting season, a small piece of rib bone was extracted and examined for the dye. This "marked/recapture" study utilized each marked bear to determine an estimate of just how many were living in the wilds of our state.

Black bear general public and applicant survey reports completed

The Wisconsin black bear general public survey was conducted in 2017 among Wisconsin residents regarding the general public's awareness of and attitudes about black bears. A report has been produced, the General Public Survey Final Report, to summarize the results received.

The Wisconsin black bear applicant survey was conducted in 2017 among bear harvest permit applicants and it examines applicant's current satisfaction with and preferences for black bear hunting opportunities in the state. A report has been produced, the Black Bear Applicant Survey Final Report, to summarize the results received.

Further information on bear management in Wisconsin

Contact information
If you have any questions please contact:
Matt Gross
Assistant Large Carnivore Ecologist
Last revised: Tuesday January 07 2020