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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

High female bear take could impact recovery

Marshall Helmberger
Posted 9/23/20

REGIONAL— A sharp increase in the number of female bears taken by hunters so far this fall represents a likely setback in the ongoing effort of the Department of Natural Resources to recover …

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High female bear take could impact recovery

Posted

REGIONAL— A sharp increase in the number of female bears taken by hunters so far this fall represents a likely setback in the ongoing effort of the Department of Natural Resources to recover the state’s bear population. Females comprised the lion’s share of the hunter harvest in northern St. Louis County, and that will impact the reproductive capacity of the population, at least in the local area, according to DNR biologists.
Wildlife managers believe a relatively poor year for wild foods is the primary cause of both the high harvest and the higher overall percentage of females among those bears registered.
Hunters sharply trimmed the state’s bear population back in the late 2000s, as a combination of the high number of permits issued by the DNR and improving hunter success rates, cut estimates of the state’s bear population nearly in half.
The DNR sharply reduced the number of bear permits in more recent years, but hunters have continued to keep the pressure on the bear population, which has shown little sign of recovery. And this year’s hunt is unlikely to help matters, with a harvest that is likely to be the highest in more than a decade. “We are on track for 3,200 to 3,300 bears total for the season,” stated Dan Stark, large carnivore specialist with the Department of Natural Resources. That’s nearly 50 percent above last year’s total harvest of 2,340 bears.
Statewide, hunters are still registering somewhat more males than females. As of last week, registrations included 1,409 males, or 54 percent, compared to 1,191 females, or 46 percent. In a more typical year, hunters will take about 60 percent males and 40 females.
The situation is worse in northern St. Louis County, where 54 percent of the bears registered by hunters so far this year have been females. “That’s sky high,” said Tower Area DNR Wildlife Manager Tom Rusch. “From a population growth perspective, that’s not what you want to see.”
The higher registrations of females is not a surprise. “The high harvest of females we are seeing is exactly what happens during a year of food failure,” said Andy Tri, a biologist with the DNR’s bear research program. “When food production is poor, older reproductive females are far more likely than normal to come into baits.” While the DNR has yet to complete its food surveys, Tri said it appears that northcentral and northeastern Minnesota experienced the worst years for bear foods, most likely an effect of the early summer drought.
According to Tri, the DNR has been using a lower number of permits in recent years to “build resiliency into the population” in anticipation of poor food years. “We know that food failures occur, and we’ve been planning for it,” he said.
The impact of this year’s hunt may be reflected in next year’s permit numbers, although Tri said it’s still too early to tell. “We still need to get all the sex-age structure information from the harvest analyzed for the full picture, so any decisions on the quota won’t be made until the bear committee meeting in February or March,” Tri added.

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  • snowshoe2

    In Cass county and much of North central Minnesota we have a bumper crop of acorns where oaks are present. Problem is like Cass county they been clear cutting 100's of acres of acorn producing oaks in one spot. In past decades and time they managed oaks and spared stands in most areas being logged. Now short term gain for money by selling oaks that are 100 years old. One thing to selective cut, another to clear cut everything.

    Monday, September 28, 2020 Report this