DNR: Wisconsin hunters killed far fewer bears because of acorns

The number of black bears killed by hunters in 2023 dropped to a 15-year low, new Dept. of Natural Resources number show.
Published: Nov. 14, 2023 at 11:33 AM CST|Updated: Nov. 16, 2023 at 11:23 AM CST
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MADISON, Wis. (WMTV) – Bear season was a bear for Wisconsin hunters, and state wildlife officials believe the reason why is simple:


The number of black bears killed by hunters in 2023 dropped to a 15-year low, new Dept. of Natural Resources number show. In fact, the total taken by hunters this year was more than 25% lower than last year (2,922 vs. 4,009), the agency reported.

Not surprisingly, the hunters who did go out found little luck when they did, especially in southern Wisconsin. Whereas, hunter success rate stood at 32% over the past five years, that percentage fell below one-quarter (23%) in this past season.

Hunters in the northern most parts of the state found much better success than in the south. DNR’s statistics indicated hunters in zones D and F, which encompasses southwestern, southern, and eastern parts of the state, failed 19 out of 20 times in 2023, DNR stated.

DNR Large Carnivore Specialist Randy Johnson attributed the lack of success to how many acorns sprouted this year. He explained all those acorns mean bears are less likely to be fooled by hunters’ bait. DNR did not release anything demonstrating how many acorns grew this year, but Johnson described anecdotal evidence from hunters who told him about seeing the acorns and plenty of other natural foods for the bears.

“It is difficult to predict when these bumper acorn crops will occur, but when they do, the impact on bear hunting is unmistakable,” he said.

The plummeting number of bears who were killed actually came after a record number of people vied for a license this year. DNR stated nearly 138,000 people submitted applications for the 12,760 licenses that were awarded this year. License applications have already opened for next year. Anyone looking to apply can do so at this website, through Dec. 10.

“Interest in bear hunting continues to grow in Wisconsin and across the nation,” said Johnson. “We encourage hunters to review management zone boundaries, season frameworks and license wait times as they make their hunting plans for the coming years.”

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