Black bear

Harvested bear check-in

July 30, 2020

Due to COVID-19 related ODFW office closures, bear hunters are temporarily not required to check-in their animal at an ODFW office, though they do still need to report basic information about their harvest within 10 days. Hunters need to call the field or district office closest to their house and report their name, ODFW ID number, date of harvest, location of harvest (wildlife management unit), sex of animal and confirmation number for electronic tags. Or, they can email all the above information to

All successful bear hunters are required by hunting regulations to check in their bear’s skull at an ODFW office within 10 days of harvest. (Call first to make an appointment or be sure someone is available to help you.)

What happens at check-in?

A biologist will pull a premolar tooth and take some measurements. This process will not affect taxidermy plans. The bear skull must be thawed prior to bringing it in to enable biologists to take measurements and pull the premolar tooth. If you can, prop the bear’s mouth open with a stick after harvest, which makes tooth collection and measuring easier.

The hunter will need to provide name and address, harvest date, wildlife management unit and sub-drainage where bear was harvested and the sex of harvested bear.

Why does ODFW need a bear tooth?

The teeth are a critical part of the method used to determine bear populations since the department began using tetracycline marking statewide in 2006. It works like this: Tetracycline-laced baits are placed in the wild for bears to eat. (Tetracycline is an antibiotic that leaves a permanent stain on teeth that is visible under UV light.) Population estimates are calculated from the ratio of marked to unmarked teeth obtained from harvested bears. For the method to be accurate, hunter return rates must be high. The better the hunter check-in rates, the more accurate the bear population information will be.

An accurate estimate of the black bear population is needed to set hunting seasons, monitor population trends, recommend habitat changes to land management agencies, and evaluate how black bears impact other wildlife and humans. The check-in of non-hunting mortalities (e.g. bears killed by vehicles or taken on landowner damage complaints) is also required.

Why can’t this be voluntary?

When checking in bears was voluntary (prior to 2008), less than 30 percent of hunters participated—a level below the one identified as necessary in the state’s 1993 Black Bear Management Plan.

Do other western states have mandatory bear harvest check-in?

Yes. Oregon was the last Western state to implement mandatory check-in. It already had mandatory cougar check-in and the process for bears is similar.

Is the mandatory check-in for harvested bears a statewide program?

Yes. No matter where in Oregon you harvest a black bear, you must check it in.

What happens if I don’t check in my bear?

Hunters that don’t check-in their bears may be cited by Oregon State Police for a Class A misdemeanor, which is punishable by up to one year in jail, a $6,250 fine and suspension of hunting privileges.

Where do I check-in my bear?

Bear skulls should be taken to an ODFW office during normal business hours Monday – Friday 8 a.m.-5 p.m. Please call first to ensure a biologist is available.

Are other parts of the bear needed?

Yes. ODFW also needs the reproductive tracts from any female bears harvested, which helps us estimate the reproduction rate and frequency in Oregon bears. The tracts are easy to collect when field dressing your bear. Here’s how to do it:

1. Label a plastic bag with: Date of Kill, Unit Number and Name, County, and Your Name and Address. Ziplock-type kitchen or freezer bags work very well for this purpose.

Female bear reproductive tract
Collecting female bear reproductive tract

2. Locate the “Y” shaped reproductive tract beneath and slightly ahead of the pelvis or hip bones. It usually is necessary to move some of the intestines and other organs aside to locate the entire tract, including both ovaries and the uterus.

3. Cut the uterus immediately forward of the bladder. Use caution when handling the bladder and cutting the reproductive tract from the body cavity to insure the meat is not contaminated with urine from the bladder.

4. Place the entire reproductive tract in the labeled plastic bag and seal. Tie the labeled tooth envelope to the outside of the bag containing the reproductive tract.

5. Preserve specimens by freezing as soon as possible and submit to any ODFW district office.

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