ST. PAUL -- Through the first two weeks of the 2021 bear season, Minnesota hunters shot 2,299 bears, down about 13.6% from the same time in 2020.
About 80% of bears harvested in any given year are shot the first two weeks of the season, when most hunters are active. Based on the harvest to date, Department of Natural Resources officials said they expect hunters to kill about 2,900 by the time the season ends Oct. 17, down a bit from nearly 3,200 last year. The hunter success rate so far is 35% or higher in all of the management units, considered very high by national standards.
DNR wildlife biologists report that, so far, 57% of the bears shot have been male. If the number of adult females shot gets too high biologists say it can impact the long-term population.
"If things keep up as they have been, we should end up with a statewide harvest somewhere around 2,900, which would probably put us about 9-10% behind last year,'' said Andrew Tri, the DNR's Grand Rapids-based bear specialist.
Tri said hunter success remains high because of the drought and bad berry and nut crops in the woods.
"When harvest is high during a bad food year, it can have significant implications on the proportion of the population that is made up of reproductive females,'' Tri said. "With two back to back bad food years, the impacts will be much longer lasting here than in areas of the state with more abundant oak forest and agriculture. We won’t know what the full effects of the season will be until we get the final age data back in February, but it’s been a hard couple years for bears in the Northeast."
Minnesota had an estimated 12,000-15,000 bears before the season started.