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State DNR Says Black Bear Sightings Are Up in 2010
Wisconsin Ag Connection - 07/28/2010

Black bear sightings are becoming more common in southern Wisconsin as bruins find areas previously considered occasional or rare for bear sightings suitable for occupancy. The Department of Natural Resources says a 2008 bear population study estimated the current bear population at between 26,000 and 40,000 bears. This is up from 1989, when the population was estimated at 9,000.

"Wisconsin's bear population is considerably higher than it was 20 years ago," said Linda Olver, acting DNR bear biologist. "Bear distribution in Wisconsin has shifted further south and southwest, facilitated by the increase in the bear population and areas of suitable habitat available in southern Wisconsin"

Black bears are not evenly distributed throughout Wisconsin. Bears are abundant in the northern third of Wisconsin and in the forested areas of Clark and Jackson Counties. Bears are less common in the southern half of Wisconsin. The following map shows the relative distribution of black bears in Wisconsin.

"Since March of this year we've logged more than 140 sighting reports in areas where bears were seen occasionally or rarely," says Olver. "However some of these reports are multiple sightings of the same bear as it moves through an area."

Wisconsin is not alone when it comes to bears expanding their range say wildlife managers. A 2008 survey of eastern states and Canadian provinces that actively manage black bear populations indicated that 75 percent of these jurisdictions report an increase in bear range. Only Vermont reported a contracting bear range.

The DNR manages bear population size through regulated hunting. Recently, biologists have increased the number of bear harvest permits in response to the apparent increase in bear numbers. Ninety-one percent more harvest permits are available for the 2010 bear season than were allotted for the 2008 bear season.

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