Wisconsin’s black bear population rises, increased sightings and interactions reported

DNR data shows there are 24,000 in Wisconsin
There are more than 24,000 bears in the state
Published: Jul. 6, 2022 at 3:56 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - If you think there have been more sightings of bears recently, you’re probably right. A biologist from the Wisconsin Department of Natural said the black bear population is on the rise. And they’re moving south from central and northern Wisconsin as their numbers grow.

This summer, the NewsChannel 7 newsroom received dozens of videos and photos of bear sightings in our area-- many in residential areas.

The DNR’s latest data show Wisconsin’s bear has grown substantially. That explains the uptick in sightings.

The DNR said in 1989 there were only about 9,000 black bears in the state. Now the population is up to 24,000.

“Our bear population has been steadily increasing and expanding southward,” said Sara Fischer, assistant large carnivore biologist of the Wisconsin DNR.

June and July is when black bears are on the move.

“The very beginning of July is kind of their mating season so they’re moving around a lot right now,” said Fischer.

Food also motivates them to move.

“They’re also trying to find as many easy food sources as they can. which is why they are starting to come into residential areas because people are feeding birds and feeding other wildlife and it’s a smörgåsbord for them basically,” said Fischer.

Recently a bear broke into a home in Taylor County and attacked the owners and a similar break-in happened in Marinette County. But most bears don’t mind being kept out of homes because it’s crop season.

“There is lots of agricultural land which means lots of food for them. we do also have a good amount of forest for them.”

Which could mean getting farther from forests and closer to you. The DNR said if you see a bear and it’s not afraid of you, you should make loud noises to scare them off.

“Cause habituated bears are not safe for humans and they’re not safe for themselves either,” said Fischer.

The DNR tracks when bears emerge from their den and how many there are to regulate the population and collect data. they’re asking you to contact them if you find a bear den in Wisconsin.

Number of bears in the state increased to more than 24K, up from 9K in 1989

If you have issues with a black bear on your property or in your neighborhood the DNR advises you to call USDA Wildlife Services.

USDA Wildlife Services, Northern Wisconsin: 800-228-1368 (in-state) or 715-369-5221

USDA Wildlife Services, Southern Wisconsin: 800-433-0663 (in-state) or 920-324-4514

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