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Minnesota bear harvest down from 2017

Minnesota's bear harvest was down this year. File / Duluth News Tribune

Minnesota bear hunters took nearly 13 percent fewer black bears this year compared to 2017, the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources reported recently.

Hunters killed 1,760 bears during the hunting season that recently ended, down from 2,035 in 2017 and down 33 percent from 2,633 bears shot in 2016.

The same number of permits was issued this year as last. So wildlife managers said the dip in bears shot isn't because there are fewer of them but because they were full.

This year hunters took 66 percent male bears and 34 percent female bears. That's still too many females, wildlife managers say, to be sustainable. Because the DNR's goal is to increase bear numbers in the quota area — including northeastern Minnesota — they'd like to see fewer than 30 percent of the harvest females, said Tom Rusch, DNR wildlife manager for the Tower area.

For that to happen, hunters will have to shoot fewer females, which are slow to mature and don't begin breeding until age 4 or 5. Most females shot are younger than that and so never had the chance to add to the population, Rusch noted.

Because it's hard to distinguish males from females in the woods, the only sure way to shoot fewer females is to shoot fewer total bears, which means fewer permits available for hunters and more years between permits due to the lottery system.