WI: Black bear kill tags up from 2010

Madison – The Natural Resources Board approved a harvest quota
of 5,235 bears for the 2011 hunting season, which is the same as in
2010, but kill tag numbers will be up a bit from last year based on
success rates.

At the board’s Jan. 26 meeting, the DNR told board members it will
issue 9,005 permits for the season, 95 more permits than were
issued last year. The number of permits issued is based on the
previous three-year success rate.

Linda Olver, the DNR’s assistant bear biologist, said the estimated
bear population for the primary bear range (the northern third of
the state) is 19,339 bears.

“During 2010, more than 5,000 bears were harvested statewide,
including 514 in Price County alone, and the first bear in the
modern era was harvested in Green Lake County,” Olver said.

The quotas for each zone in 2011 are:

• Zone A (north-central): A harvest quota of 2,200 bears, and the
issuance of 3,465 permits. The preliminary harvest in this zone
last year was 2,093 bears. It takes seven preference points to get
a Class A bear kill tag.

• Zone B (northeast): A harvest quota of 1,075 bears, with 1,510
permits. The harvest last year was 994. It takes nine preference
points to get a kill permit.

• Zone C (southern): A harvest quota of 860 bears, with 2,550 kill
tags. The harvest last year was 771 bears. It takes four preference
points for a license.

• Zone D (northwest): A harvest quota of 1,100 bears, with 1,480
permits. The harvest last year was 1,196 bears. It takes eight
preference points for a tag.

Last year, 540 bear tags were transferred to youth hunters, and
during the Learn to Bear Hunt program, 50 youths participated, with
32 kids shooting bears in eight counties.

Some of the large bears harvested last year included a 736-pound
bear killed by Chad Maves in Shawano County; a 711-pound bear taken
by Dexter McKittrick, 17, in Rusk County, and a 737-pound bear shot
by 11-year-old Brandon Burkhart in Langlade County. McKittrick shot
his bear after first attending football practice and then helping
his dad with farm chores.

A total of 3,659 bears were harvested by bait hunters, and 1,265
with the use of dogs.

The average hunter success rate has ranged from 47 percent to 72
percent. Hunters recorded a 56-percent success rate in 2010.

Bear hunting continues to gain interest, and application numbers
keep climbing. A total of 103,860 people applied for either a
preference point or a harvest tag last year – the most ever.

Olver told the board that the state’s bear management plan is being
updated, and will include opportunities for input from the
public.

“Bears are expanding their distribution in Wisconsin, and they now
are farther south, which will present new challenges and
opportunities,” Olver said.

Hunters soon may have new opportunities to harvest bears in the
south, and Olver said citizens can expect to see bears more often
in areas where they haven’t previously seen them.

Board member Dave Clausen, of Amery, asked whether the DNR is
watching what Minnesota is doing; that state is more liberal with
bear tags, and most hunters can buy tags in consecutive years.
Clausen also noted that Minnesota has “drawn a line in the sand,”
so to speak, in that there are areas where that state does not want
to see any bears. Olver said that “drawing a line” and not allowing
bears in certain areas may not be successful in Wisconsin. She said
the new bear plan will engage the public and consider what strategy
to take in the more urban southeastern Wisconsin area.

“Wisconsin is not unique, and many of the eastern states also are
experiencing an increase in bear distribution,” she said. The
reasons aren’t clear, but speculation includes a change in land
use, as once-active dairy farms are purchased and used as
recreational properties that are more bear-friendly.

Gary Rohde, board member from River Falls, asked Olver why the DNR
doesn’t have a goal for the bear population, and she said the goal
is in the administrative code. Biologists suspected the population
was actually higher, and that’s why they undertook the tetracycline
study in 2006, which confirmed a higher population of bears.

The model has been changed, and the DNR intends to repeat the study
this year. She said that after this second round of study is
completed, the DNR will look at new population goals.

The statewide population estimate is about 23,380 bears, just
slightly more than last year.

Rich Kirchmeyer, secretary of the Conservation Congress, said the
Congress Bear Committee approved the DNR harvest quotas; however,
the congress is still concerned that permit levels are too
low.

“The two biggest concerns I have been hearing are the availability
of good places to place bear baits with the amount of harvest
permits being issued, and increased guiding for bears,” Kirchmeyer
said.

Guiding for bear hunters is becoming a big business, Kirchmeyer
added, and some guides are taking out up to 50 clients each year,
with many of them hunting over bait. Guides then saturate areas
with baits and there are fewer places for “average hunters” to put
out bait.

Kirchmeyer suggested that in the future there may be a need to
split Zone C into different management zones.

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