According to a press release from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources (DNR), they are enlisting the help of the public in their latest study of black bear populations across the state. The ongoing Black Bear Litter and Diet Survey relies on citizen scientists to report black bear den locations. For the last 3 years this collaborative effort has helped update estimates of black bear reproductive rates within each bear management zone, ultimately enhancing the accuracy of population models.

Credit: Lynn_Bystrom
Credit: Lynn_Bystrom
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Scientists at the DNR Large Carnivore and Elk Research group underscore the significance of public involvement, noting that reports from citizens play a pivotal role in meeting sample size requirements for the study. Given the infrequency of discovering bear dens, the public's assistance has become invaluable in providing researchers with the necessary data to flesh out the intricacies of black bear populations.

Credit: Lynn_Bystrom
Credit: Lynn_Bystrom
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The survey requests citizens to report as much information as possible about occupied black bear dens, emphasizing caution and urging against approaching or disturbing the dens. Information sought includes GPS coordinates, photos of the den and its surroundings from a safe distance, a description of the den site, and any observations of bear activity in the area.

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Once reports are filed the DNR team collaborates with den reporters and landowners to assess the safety, accessibility, and activity of the dens before deciding on surveys. Dens known to be currently occupied will take precedence in the survey schedule.

Black Bear In A Tree
Credit: JimVallee
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The data collected during the survey is comprehensive, covering biological details such as sex, weight, and body measurements of bears. Mother bears, or sows, are fitted with GPS collars to monitor foraging behavior and reproductive success, including litter frequency, size, and cub survival rates. The process prioritizes bear health and safety, with designated staff closely monitoring vital signs during the survey.

A Black Bear is looking out of a Forest in Canada
Credit: heckepics
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Looking ahead, the Black Bear Litter and Diet Survey team plans to continue surveying dens for the next six to seven years, aiming to place tracking collars on at least 100 sows across the state's bear management zones. While the team is currently on track to meet sample-size targets, ongoing public reports are essential to achieving their benchmarks and advancing our understanding of black bear reproduction in Wisconsin. To report a known black bear den, citizens can use the DNR's black bear den submission form, becoming integral contributors to this vital wildlife research initiative.

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