UWSP students study, trap and track live black bears

The black bear population in Wisconsin is on the rise
Bears are trapped, anesthetized and have trackers attached to them
Published: Jul. 11, 2022 at 4:25 PM CDT
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WAUSAU, Wis. (WSAW) - The black bear population is on the rise in north central Wisconsin and so is the number of students studying them, including a group from UW-Stevens Point who are now participating in the Wisconsin Black Bear Project.

The study began 40-plus years ago, but in 2020 students got involved. With the help of Treehaven, more students are taking an interest. Nearly two dozen UWSP students are learning about the bears first-hand by traping them, collecting data, and tracking their movements.

The 20 students are part of a course that studies live black bears. One student said working in the field with the bears has been life-changing

“This project helped me discover my passion for wildlife research and the fieldwork for this has really solidified that I really do enjoy working in this field and this is what I want to do as a career,” said Amber Smith, a UWSP senior.

“There is a lot of interest in black bears and that’s an area that our students have always been really excited to learn about,” said Cady Sartini, Associate Professor of Wildlife Ecology at UWSP.

Sartini says students learn about bear ecology, human-bear conflict, and den processing up close and personal. They trapped two bears in one night last week.

“It’s a really eye-opening opportunity working so close with this magnificent animal in the field,” said Smith.

Smith said working with the bears is a fast process so students have to stay calm and work through it quickly.

“The first thing that we need to do is to use an anesthetic that’s for the bear’s safety as well as for ours,” said Sartini.

They take the weight of the bears as well as body measurements. They also attach ear tags for tracking.

“It lets us know where that animal goes after she leaves us,” said Sartini.

The bears are then returned back into the wild.

Sartini said the process does not harm the bears. Neither do the ear tags. Instead, it allows us to keep track of the growing population.

Photo credit: UW-Stevens Point

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