REGIONAL— A bumper crop of berries, nuts, fruits, and other wild foods is likely to challenge the skills and patience of bear hunters when they head to their stands for the season opener on …
REGIONAL— A bumper crop of berries, nuts, fruits, and other wild foods is likely to challenge the skills and patience of bear hunters when they head to their stands for the season opener on Saturday.
“Natural food availability will likely decrease bear visits to hunters’ baits early in the season,” said Tower DNR Area Wildlife Manager Tom Rusch. “Summer bear foods may still be plentiful going into September.”
According to Rusch, hunter success is directly related to natural food abundance, which is why he expects a reduction in hunter success from the astonishing 50-percent success that hunters experienced the past two years, when natural foods were relatively scarce. Historically, 20-40 percent of bear hunters have been successful in any given year, but hunters appear to have had higher success since the DNR reduced the number of bear permits, which has reduced hunter competition.
This year, the DNR will issue 3,350 permits— the same number as last year. It’s well below the numbers issued several years ago, when the DNR was attempting to reduce a burgeoning bear population. These days, after several years of high harvest, the bear population remains well below the DNR’s goal of 20,000 bears statewide. The current population is estimated at 12,000-15,000 animals, which is roughly half the population estimate of ten years ago.
Rusch said the population recovery has been slow, in part because it’s difficult to restrict bear harvest to males, as is possible with deer. According to Rusch, the average harvested female bear is just three to four years old, too young to have successfully bred in most cases. That limits the ability of the population to recover.