The first year of an online site developed to collect reports of black bear and bobcat sightings from Wisconsin citizens produced more than 800 reports, according to a Department of Natural Resources news release. This information has been valuable in documenting presence and range expansion for both species, according to wildlife biologists.
“Given that black bears are common in the northern third of Wisconsin, we are taking a special interest in sightings within areas designated as ‘occasional’ or ‘rare’ on the distribution map,” said Brian Dhuey, wildlife surveys researcher with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources. Black bear population and distribution information available here.
Black bears have been reported in 51 of Wisconsin’s 72 counties in 2011 through the online reporting site. Of those 51 counties, 23 lie in the rare or occasionally-sighted areas on the black bear distribution map.
“Many times these southern bears are young males that are dispersing after being emancipated from their mothers,” said Linda Olver, DNR bear biologist. “However, we have also had reports of sows with young in both Iowa and Sauk counties.”
Of the 550 black bear observations reported so far this year, 76 percent were lone bears. Only 24 percent of observations reported multiple bears; typically these groups are a sow with cubs, a sow witha yearling, or multiple yearling bears seen together. Of the total observations, 81 percent occurred in April, May, or June.
In addition to location information, observers are asked about the observation site habitat. Most black bears are reported along roads/roadsides or in residential areas.