Monday, February 6th, 2023
Monday, February 6th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Bear ribs requested for aging study

By Dean
Bortz
Editor

Madison — State bear hunters getting ready for the Sept. 6
opener have plenty to think about already, but DNR biologists want
hunters to remember to collect a rib from their bears this year as
part of a two-year aging study.

This is the first year of a two-year black bear aging study that
is intended to eventually shed light on the DNR’s statewide bear
population estimate and, perhaps, to reinforce the bear population
model used to arrive at that estimate.

To do so, researchers and Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association
members placed 3,500 bacon bait stations across Wisconsin this
summer. That bacon was laced with tetracycline, an antibiotic that
will leave a “stain” in a bear’s bones and teeth. By collecting
ribs and teeth from harvested bears this fall and next fall,
biologists can arrive at a ratio of “stained” to “clean” bears.
That information will help biologists to either confirm, or refine,
the state’s method of estimating bears.

Right now, the DNR is estimating the state’s bear population at
about 13,000 animals heading into the 2006 hunting season. That’s
about the same number as last year, according to Keith Warnke, DNR
bear ecologist.

Warnke hopes the DNR collects one rib and one tooth from every
bear harvested this fall. Since the bear harvest goal is about
2,500 animals, Warnke hopes to end up with a corresponding number
of ribs and teeth.

WBHA members should have all of the study baits pulled before
the season opens. Most of the baits were pulled by last week.
Warnke said the May to August window will be enough time for the
tetracycline to put a stain on a bear’s bones. He said Michigan and
Minnesota have used the same method for several years.

“If a bear’s been eating the bacon, it’s (bones) should have a
stain, and that stain should be noticeable for two years. We will
be doing (bacon baits) again next year before the project ends,”
Warnkes said.

All registration stations and bear hunters who drew a Class A
kill tag are being made aware of the “rib and tooth” collection
efforts through a special mailing that went out last week.

“We are in the midst of stuffing envelopes to mail to kill-tag
winners – there are instructions, envelopes for the ribs, borax for
the ribs to go in, an envelope for a tooth, and an entry slip for
the WBHA gun raffle,” he said.

“Hunters can (collect the rib and tooth) at any registration
station. Each station will have everything they need to pull a rib
right at the station. Look at the instructions – it’s pretty slick.
It doesn’t take that long. We want to get a rib from every bear
shot. We want to get 2,500 ribs; that’s the projected harvest
quota. These ribs are like gold – it’s a huge necessity to get
these ribs,” Warnke said.

“This will give us another index, another thing we can look at
to tweak our population model and estimate,” he said.

The DNR issued 4,370 kill tags this year to reach the quota of
2,500 bears.

Last year hunters killed 2,645 bears, with Zone A leading the
way with 887 animals. Zone A1 added 727 bears, and Zone B had 543.
The kill the past two years in Zone C has exceeded 400 bears, with
the 2005 kill coming in at 488. Up until 2004, the Zone C kill had
been in the low 200-range. The 2004 and 2005 harvests seems to
indicate that the Zone C population (central and southern
Wisconsin) is growing.

For 2006, the permit levels are: Zone A – 1,475; Zone A1 – 685;
Zone B – 700; Zone C – 1,510.

“It should be a good bear season. The population has been
stable, it looks like about the same as last year, and hopefully we
didn’t have a major mast crop so baiters have a good shot at it,”
Warnke said

Season dates

Zones A, A1, and B

Sept. 6 -12: With aid of bait and with other methods not
utilizing dogs.

Sept. 13 – Oct. 3: With aid of hounds, bait, and other
methods.

Oct. 4-10: With aid of dogs only.

Zone C

Sept. 6 – Oct. 10: Baiting and all methods not including
hounds.

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