As of Sept. 30, bear hunters in Minnesota had taken 2,398 bears, said Karen Noyce, a wildlife research biologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources at Grand Rapids. The season opened Sept. 1 and continues through Oct. 14, but that total should represent about 90 percent of the total harvest, Noyce said.
Although the number of bear hunting permits in the quota zone (most of Northeastern Minnesota) was down this fall, the harvest is up from last year’s total harvest of 2,131, Noyce said. In the quota zone, where hunters must be drawn in a lottery to receive a license, the bear kill is down in most areas, Noyce said. The harvest is up in the no-quota area generally south and west of the quota zone. In that zone, hunters can purchase bear licenses over the counter.
Noyce estimated the final harvest would be about 2,600 bears.
A total of 6,000 bear-hunting permits were issued this fall in the quota zone, down from 7,050 last year and 9,500 in 2010. Hunters took 2,966 bears in 2010 and 2,131 last fall.
Currently, Minnesota’s bear population is estimated at about 18,000 animals. The DNR has been reducing the number of bear hunting permits in recent years in hopes that the population would grow a bit, Noyce said. The increased harvest this year could be an indication that the population has grown somewhat.
Pregnant female bears in the DNR’s former bear-study area typically began denning the third week of September, Noyce said. By the second week of October, about half the bears seek dens. And by the firearms deer season in early November, nearly all bears have entered their dens, she said.