Preliminary data from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) shows hunters harvested 3,648 bears during the 2019 Wisconsin black bear season, nearly equal to the 3,680 reported in 2018.

“Wisconsin often leads the nation in black bear harvest, and these preliminary results suggest that our bear population remains healthy and abundant across the prime bear range in the state,” said Scott Walter, DNR large carnivore specialist. 

“Although we reduced quotas and permit levels to meet population management objectives, generally higher hunter success allowed us to achieve 95% of our desired harvest quota and an overall harvest similar to last year,” said Walter. “The data provided by hunters through the registration process is critical to both tracking bear population size and establishing harvest quotas that address population management objectives.”

Statewide harvest totals were buoyed by high hunter success in Zone C, which consists of the southern two-thirds of the state, where harvest increased by 36% (from 660 to 898 bears) over 2018, and Zone A (northcentral), where harvest in­creased by 20% to 939 bears.

“While the statewide harvest was strong in these northern zones and allowed us to broadly achieve our harvest objectives, hunter success and total harvest were lower than hoped for in Zones B (northeast) and D (northwest),” Walter said.

The DNR reports a preliminary harvest of 650 black bears were taken in Zone B in this area, with 83% of the quota harvested. The success rate was 51%. Meanwhile, hunters harvested 1,161 bears in Zone D, with 89% of the quota harvested. The success rate was 47%. The success rate was highest in Zone A at 56%.

“Weather and the availability of natural foods can lead to variation in hunter success, so the beauty of our zone-based approach to management is that we can identify and track local bear population trends,” said Walter. “The 2019 data provided by hunters will be instrumental in allowing us to adjust quotas moving forward to ensure that bear populations in all zones are at desired levels.”

Reflecting sustained high interest in Wisconsin’s bear hunting opportunities, more than 120,000 hunters applied for either a harvest permit or preference point for the 2019 season.

“The passion Wisconsin bear hunters have for our bear resource, the hunting experience and for introducing new hunters to the outdoors is wonderful,” Walter said. “Our staff scientists are bringing new population monitoring tools to the table. We have a new bear management plan in place and our bear population remains healthy and is expanding into new areas. Now is certainly an exciting time for the black bear program in Wisconsin.”

Visit the DNR website at dnr.wi.gov to learn more about black bear ecology, history and management in Wisconsin and review the recently approved Wisconsin Black Bear Management Plan for 2019-’29.