Minnesota Bear Harvest Down

Minnesota DNR, Bear Hunting Magazine

Minnesota's bear hunters are struggling with this years bear season. Hunters tagged 1,445 bruins as of last week, down nearly fifty-percent from the 2,796 taken during the same period in 2007.

"They're doing terribly,' said Dave Dickey, Department of Natural Resources area wildlife manager in Aitkin. In his area, hunters had bagged 54 bears as of last week, compared to 179 in 2007 which equals a seventy-percent decline.

"The prime reason is the super-abundant foods in the woods,' said DNR bear researcher Dave Garshelis. Blueberries, cherries and acorns have been plentiful, making bears less likely to be attracted to bait put out by hunters. But Garshelis also suspects the bear population might be down.

The DNR has been reducing the number of hunting permits, from more than 20,000 five years ago to fewer than 12,000 this year for which 17,000 applied for. The Department of Natural Resoures has sold about 10,100 bear licenses as of last week.

"We've reduced permits for two reasons: hunter overcrowding in some areas, and overharvest in some areas,' Garshelis said. The DNR increased the harvest pressure radically from the mid- to late-90s out of concern that the population was growing too fast. Garshelis said the agency is not concerned about the number of bear hunters. "It seems about right,' he said.

The DNR last did a bear population assessment six years ago, and it concluded there were about 22,000 bears, plus or minus 6,000, which is nearly triple the estimated 1980 population. The DNR is doing another population survey this fall, with the help of hunters.

Garshelis and his researchers put out baits laced with tetracycline, an antibiotic. The chemical is deposited in the teeth and bones of animals that consume it and can be detected later. Successful bear hunters are required to submit two teeth and part of a rib bone to the DNR. The percentage of those bears with tetracycline will give the agency a good estimate of the population.

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