The Wisconsin Black Bear
Inhabiting the Northwoods Forests, Backyards & Country

Wisconsin is home to a thriving black bear population estimated at more than 28,000 bears. The black bear's primary range is located in the far northern third of the state. Due to a growing population, bears are becoming much more common in the lower two-thirds of the state than ever before.

Wisconsin's bear population is managed primarily though hunting by offering hunters a quality experience while being managed under a strict quota/permit issuance system designed to ensure the long-term future of the population. More than 109,000 hunters applied for 11,520 permits in 2016, making the wait to receive a harvest permit approximately 1 to 9 years, depending on the bear management zone. However, when one finally receives a permit, the opportunity to harvest a bear is better than 40 percent for most zones and some of the biggest bears in the country are taken in Wisconsin. Several bears registered by hunters each year top 600 or 700 pounds!

Wildlife biologists in Wisconsin conducted research that provided better information about bear numbers in the state, which helps develop guidelines that will ensure a prosperous future for the species. This research was highly dependent on the help of volunteers, who placed thousands of baits throughout the north each year. The bait was laced with a dye that settled in a bear's bones once eaten. If a bear that had eaten the bait was harvested during the hunting season, a small piece of rib bone was extracted and examined for the dye. This "marked/recapture" study utilized each marked bear to determine an estimate of just how many were living in the wilds of our state.

For information on bear management, contact:

David MacFarland
Large Carnivore Specialist
Bureau of Wildlife Management


Black Bear