DNR increases permits to decrease bear-human interactions

Too many backyard bear sightings and bear-human interactions are leading to problems. The Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources has decided they

An American black bear, Photo Credit: Mark Watson / Flickr

EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Too many backyard bear sightings and bear-human interactions are leading to problems. The Wisconsin Dept. of Natural Resources has decided they're going to take action, just in time for hunting season.

The DNR says the bear population continues to rise in northwestern Wisconsin. That means more conflicts between bears and people in areas that become increasingly residential. Now the DNR is increasing the number of bear hunting permits to decrease those conflicts.

Wildlife biologist Bill Hogseth said human-bear interaction conflicts have become more common in the southern portion of Zone D on the black bear management map. Counties include Burnett, Washburn, Polk and Barron. Zone D will have a record 1600 bear hunting permits instead of 1200 this hunting season.

"There's been a lot of agricultural damage, so a lot of farmers around this time of year are having bears come out into their field and the bears were causing a lot of damage to their crops and it's also getting to the point where some bears and breaking and entering into residences, these are abnormally aggressive bears," said Hogseth.

He said last year in Shell Lake, one bear actually attacked a person, causing significant injury. That's why the DNR will use licensed hunters to reduce the bear population in that portion of the state.

"When you get to these exceptionally high population densities with bears, sometimes they're forced into areas where there are higher human residences and human densities," said Hogseth. That just means that the probability of a bear coming into contact with a human is going to increase so that just increases the risk that there will be incidences where damage or injury are going to occur."

He said the bear population continues to increase both for western and northern Wisconsin.

Anita Sacia of Eau Claire County said she's noticed a bear coming through a front yard this summer.

"We saw the black bear one evening when we were watching television. My husband went to shut the door and here he was standing by our tree, having his evening meal," said Sacia.

Even after her bird feeder was damaged and to be thrown away, Saica said she hasn't run into any unbearable issues and for now, the bear and the neighborhood coexist.

"I don't mind having the bear around, we just live and coexist well, if there's a problem then I could see where something needs to take action," she said.

Hogseth said bears aren't naturally aggressive, but when they become habituated to human settlement, things can change.

"Maybe people are putting up bird feeder or leaving their garbage loose outside or even grease traps and grills, then they can start becoming habituated those type of food sources and then they can become aggressive," he said.

If you do see a bear around a residential area, Hogseth said you can make a loud noise or wave your arms and typically, a bear will turn around and walk way.

He also said bear hunting is becoming more popular as the bear population rises. This year, a record 106,000 applications were submitted for bear hunting permits.

The bear hunting season starts September 3rd.

DNR Black Bear Management (Zone D)

Light blue area show where bear-human interaction conflicts have gone up. 1600 bear hunting permits will be allowed in Zone D.

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