Hunters registered a near-record number of black bears during the 2012 season. The Department of Natural Resources says hunters harvested 4,400 black bears this year, during the season that wrapped up in October.

It’s the second highest harvest on record. The largest was in 2010, when hunters registered 5,133 bears.

Agency officials say the high numbers show how abundant bears are in the state, with a large population located primarily in northern Wisconsin and forested areas in the central parts of the state. Bear sightings were reported as far south as Green County this year.

The DNR has been working with the Wisconsin Bear Hunters Association to estimate the size of the bear population. A similar study in 2006 found the number of bears in the state was higher than previously believed, leading to higher harvest quotas and permits. Given the size of the hunt this year, DNR wildlife expert Kevin Wallenfang says the state may be at the point where it will need to consider backing off on permit levels in some areas.

The DNR issued just over 9,000 permits for the limited hunt this year, out of more than 104,000 applications. Hunters seeking a permit or preference points for the 2013 season have until December 10th to apply.

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