An image of an American black bear.

Black bear harvest returned to recent average in the 2021 season. / Photo Credit: iStock / Lynn_Bystrom

MADISON, Wis. – Early results from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR) show hunters harvested 3,802 bears during the 2021 black bear season, a decrease from the 4,306 taken last year.

The 2021 harvest results are similar to the 2018 and 2019 harvests. While overall numbers fell short of the total quota, several zones were at or near harvest objectives, and statewide hunter success (32%) remained nearly equal to the last several years.

“This fall marked the first season using new harvest zones as outlined in the black bear management plan,” said Randy Johnson, DNR Large Carnivore Specialist. “The reconfigured zones better reflect the bear population distribution across the state and allow a more fine-tuned approach to management based upon conditions in each zone.”

The 2020 season saw above-average hunter success rates contributing to a higher harvest. Harvested bear data from hunters is critical to tracking bear population trends and in ensuring the population remains healthy while also achieving population management objectives.

Harvest data indicates Zones A and B in the north and northeastern parts of the state performed well, with hunter success at 62% and 56%, respectively. Zone C located in the central part of the state fell short of its quota, with hunter success a bit lower than expected.

In the northwestern part of the state, the Zone D quota and license levels were increased significantly this fall to reduce the bear population across the zone and agricultural damage issues in the area. Despite only taking 70% of the quota in this zone, the 1,251 bears harvested represent the highest harvest in the area in at least a decade. In Zone D, harvest projections indicate this level of harvest is likely to result in a slight population reduction.

Finally, while neither Zones E nor F in the western and southern parts of the state reached their harvest quotas, the actual number of bears taken in those areas was at or above levels in recent years.

Zone-specific preliminary registration information is as follows:

Zone Preliminary Harvest Harvest Quota Percentage of Quota Harvested Hunter Success Rate
A 1,227 1,100 112% 62%
B 711 750 95% 56%
C 484 600 81% 16%
D 1,255 1,800 70% 34%
E 100 160 62% 6%
F 25 30 83% 8%
Statewide Total 3,802 4,440 86% 32%

Nearly 130,000 people applied for a bear hunting license or preference point for the 2021 season, setting a record number of applicants.

“Interest in bear hunting continues to grow in Wisconsin and across the nation,” said Johnson. “With growing demand and a limited number of licenses, we encourage the public to review management zone boundaries and license wait times as they make their hunting plans.”

A full breakdown of the 2021 bear license drawing is available on the DNR website.

Hunters wishing to obtain a license or preference point for the 2022 season are encouraged to apply through Go Wild before the Dec. 10 deadline. Hunters should make sure to check the new zone map before selecting their zone in Go Wild.

Visit the DNR website to learn more about black bear ecology, history and management in Wisconsin and to review the Wisconsin Black Bear Management Plan, 2019-2029.

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