REGIONAL— Abundant natural foods and continued warm temperatures appear to have given bears the edge during the 2023 bear season, with registrations off 25 percent from last year. With just …
REGIONAL— Abundant natural foods and continued warm temperatures appear to have given bears the edge during the 2023 bear season, with registrations off 25 percent from last year. With just over two weeks left in the season, it’s looking like the total harvest will come in close to 1,500 animals. That would be less than half of the 3,203 bears registered during the 2020 season and it would mark the third straight year of declining bear registrations. At the current pace, the total harvest could wind up below the 2014 harvest of 1,627 bears, which would make the lowest harvest in more than 20 years.
“We knew the harvest would be down this year due an abundance of natural foods, so I am not surprised by these numbers,” said DNR Tower Area Wildlife Manager Jessica Holmes.
Locally, numbers are down as well from previous years. A total of 318 bears had been registered as of late last week in permit areas 24, 25, and 31, including just 28 bears in PA 24. By contrast, bear registrations in PA 25 are actually up slightly over last year, while registrations in PA 31 are down more than 25 percent.
The decline in registrations in northeastern Minnesota also reflects the reduction in the number of permits issued in those three permit areas. The three permit areas encompass virtually all of St. Louis County, the southern two-thirds of Lake County, and the eastern half of Koochiching County. As recently as 2021, the DNR issued 1,075 permits in those permit areas, but that number has since been reduced to a total of 875 as black bear recovery in the region has been slower than anticipated.
The strong natural food crop this year has helped reduce the percentage of female bears taken by hunters. Male bears are currently comprising 67 percent of the total registrations. Since females are critical to population recovery, the relatively low percentage of female bears in this year’s harvest bodes well for reproduction next year.