Wisconsin Black Bear Hunt Opens Sept 5th

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The 2007 Wisconsin black bear hunting season opens Sept. 5 with 4,405 successful applicants heading to the woods with a harvest permit in their pocket. More than 80,000 applied for the closely regulated hunt.

Hunters registered 3,068 bears in 2006. Wildlife managers estimate the 2007 Wisconsin black bear population at approximately 13,000.

For hunters using dogs in Subzone A1, Zone A, and Zone B, the 2007 bear hunting season begins Sept. 5. For hunters in Zone C, where dogs are not allowed, the season also opens Sept. 5.

Bear hunters are reminded that while there is no blaze orange requirement for the majority of the bear season, bear hunters must wear blaze orange Oct. 6-7 during the youth gun deer hunt.

Successful hunters this season will be asked to provide a segment of rib bone and a tooth from their bear at the time they register the animal. The rib section is part of a two-year study by University of Wisconsin – Department of Wildlife Ecology researchers in coordination with the DNR Bureau of Wildlife Management and Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association. The intent of this study is to evaluate and improve current methods of estimating Wisconsin’s black bear population.

In 2006, researchers put out covered baits, accessible only to bear, containing tetracycline, a common antibiotic. Once consumed, the drug leaves a tell-tale mark in bone. The bear rib samples submitted by hunters will be analyzed for the presence of tetracycline and used to produce an estimate of Wisconsin’s bear population. The baits were removed from the field a minimum of 45 days prior to the start of the hunting season. The drug is rapidly eliminated by the bear’s system over five to seven days, so hunters eating their game should not be exposed to the tetracyline. Hunters can find information on how to collect the rib and tooth samples on the bear hunting page of the DNR Web site.

Bear teeth present an accurate measure of a bear’s age. The teeth display a series of growth rings, similar to a tree. Hunters submitting teeth will be notified of the bear's age after the teeth have been processed. This usually takes ten to 12 months. Results for teeth submitted in 2006 are expected back in October 2007 and will be mailed directly to hunters.

"Hunters who received harvest permits this fall will be getting a packet from us with mailing envelopes and instructions on collecting the samples," says Linda Olver, DNR assistant deer and bear ecologist. "For the reliability of the study, it's important that successful hunters submit both a rib and tooth sample from their bear and fill in all the harvest information required on the bear registration materials provided. The university study will build on our understanding of Wisconsin's bear population and habitat needs and will help us to be better managers of this important species. Last year we had an excellent submission rate, with over 88 percent of successful hunters submitting tooth and rib samples. This is the last year of the two-year tetracycline study and with hunters' cooperation we hope to receive even more samples than last year."

Hunters are also asked to turn in any ear tags found on their bear at the time it is registered. The ear tags indicate that the bear has been previously captured and released. The most likely reason for capture was the bear causing a nuisance but bears are also tagged during winter den surveys and with other research projects. Returned ear tags and the location where the bear was harvested provide wildlife managers important data on of bear behavior following capture and relocation.