Tuesday, January 31st, 2023
Tuesday, January 31st, 2023

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Baiting opener Aug. 17, bear-food reports mixed

By Joe
Albert
Associate Editor

Grand Rapids, Minn. – While rain has been scarce across much of
the state, and much of the land is bone dry, berries and other bear
foods have done well and could affect hunters’ success.

Bear season begins Sept. 1 and runs through Oct. 14. Hunters can
begin baiting this Friday, Aug. 17.

Most summer bear foods have been productive and likely have
resulted in nuisance complaints that are few and far between,
according to a preliminary report on bear foods compiled by Karen
Noyce, a DNR bear researcher. Fall foods now are coming into season
and they, too, appear to be doing well.

‘We can also anticipate that as long as the acorns, hazel,
dogwood, and plums are not depleted by fall, hunters may have to
work hard to get bears to come to their baits during the hunting
season, and harvests may be below average,’ Noyce wrote.

Hunters have harvested more than 3,000 bears in each of the past
four seasons, and last year killed 3,290 bears.

A total of 13,200 permits were available in the state’s 11 bear
permit areas for this year’s hunt. As of Monday, the following
areas had permits remaining for any hunter to purchase: Area 22 –
58; Area 24 – 64; and Area 45 – 195.

The bear hunt, of course, will be driven in part by food
conditions in local areas, but following is an overview of the food
situation in the state:

Juneberries: above average to bumper crops across much of the
bear range, especially in the north.

Chokecherries: above average in most places, with a bumper crop
in some.

Blueberries: above average in northern-tier counties, and
spotty, but average, in other places.

Raspberries: average to above average across the bear range.

There have been ample foods in the forest for much of the
summer, though summer berries have begun to dry up in some parts of
the state, particularly the southern part of the bear range, Noyce
said.

The fall foods look like this:

American hazel: bumper crop in the northwest and above average
or bumper elsewhere.

Beaked hazel: above average across the bear range.

Wild plum: not an abundant species, but it’s having a bumper
year. Bears may eat a lot of it.

Dogwood: at least average.

Oak: burr/white oak doesn’t look particularly good, but red and
pin oak are producing reasonably well. Overall acorn abundance is
at least average.

‘Nuts seem to be falling a bit early, however, and rain is still
lacking, so conditions may change somewhat within the next few
weeks,’ Noyce wrote.

Brian Bachman, president of the North American Bear Foundation,
said no matter what baits hunters put out, bears will eat natural
food instead if it’s available.

Bachman lives in Pillager, which is in Area 45 in the central
part of the state. He said that area is particularly dry.

‘It doesn’t look like there’s much for acorns, but some are
falling, so I’m not sure if they’ll play much of a role,’ he said.
‘There were some chokecherries, but they were early so I don’t
expect them to be an issue.’

Last year, there were very few berries in the northeast and it
was relatively easy to get bears to come to baits. This year, there
seems to be more berries, which could make baiting a more difficult
proposition, Bachman said.

Tom Rusch, DNR area wildlife supervisor in Tower, also predicts
a fruitful bear hunt. He said the Eveleth area is somewhat wet, but
areas around Ely, Tower, and northern Lake County are dry.

Berries are falling off the plants, he said, and the drought
probably has led to a poor crop of acorns. Hazelnuts are falling
from the trees, but the squirrels are getting to them quickly, he
said.

‘I think it lends itself to a good hunt – bears are going to be
finding those baits,’ Rusch said. ‘I think we’re going to have a
good year. We’ve got good bear numbers out there.’

Rusch noted that water levels in the area are low, which could
affect bear hunters who access their hunting sites via water.

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