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Michigan’s Black Bear Population Rising Steadily Each Year
LUDINGTON, MI – According to data from the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) black bear program, Michigan’s bear population has expanded nearly 5% annually over the past decade and occupies more territory across the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula regions.
“Bears continue pushing into new habitat as numbers steadily rise thanks to successful conservation management,” said Cody Norton, large carnivore specialist with the DNR. Current estimates show over 12,000 black bears now roaming zones like the western Upper Peninsula and northern areas of the mitten.
Two decades ago, regulated hunting seasons helped stabilize populations when bear numbers dipped near 8,000 total in the state. The DNR adapted with habitat improvements and reduced tag allotments. Now harvest rates average under 10% as populations thrive.
Human and bear interactions increase with growing ranges. The DNR advises securing food sources like trash bins, avoiding deliberate feeding behaviors, and using deterrents like noise, lights or dogs to discourage bears approaching developed areas. Learning how to prevent and handle encounters contributes to coexistence.
Citizens can report bear activity in their region to assist DNR tracking through the online Eyes in the Field incident mapping program. Photos and location data allow professionals to monitor growth trends and determine management policies that allow balanced wilderness populations and public safety.
With nature rebounding, Michigan’s iconic black bears appear firmly on the increase as part of the state’s wild heritage.
Michigan DNR 2022 Black Bear Status Report
Michigan State University Bear Population Dynamics Study
Top Questions and Answers about Michigan’s Black Bear
Habitat and Habits:
- Q: Where do black bears live in Michigan?
- A: Black bears are found throughout the Upper and Lower Peninsulas, preferring forested areas with dense undergrowth. They are particularly common in the northern Lower Peninsula and the Upper Peninsula.
- Q: Are black bears active during the day or night?
- A: Black bears are primarily nocturnal, but they can be active during the day, especially in the spring and early summer when searching for food.
- Q: What do black bears eat?
- A: Black bears are omnivores and their diet varies depending on the season. They eat berries, nuts, insects, fish, small mammals, and carrion.
Encountering Black Bears:
- Q: What should I do if I encounter a black bear in the wild?
- A: Stay calm and make yourself look bigger by standing tall and waving your arms. Speak in a firm voice and slowly back away, giving the bear plenty of space. Avoid running or making eye contact, as this can be seen as aggressive behavior.
- Q: Are black bears dangerous?
- A: Black bear attacks are rare, but they can occur if a bear feels threatened or cornered. It is important to be aware of your surroundings and take precautions to avoid encounters.
- Q: What should I do if a black bear approaches me?
- A: If a bear approaches, do not run. Stand your ground and make yourself look big. If the bear continues to approach, fight back with whatever you have available.
Safety and Precautions:
- Q: How can I avoid attracting black bears to my campsite?
- A: Store all food and coolers in a secure location, such as a car or bear-proof container. Never leave food unattended, and clean up cooking utensils and grills thoroughly after use.
- Q: Should I carry bear spray when hiking in Michigan?
- A: Bear spray can be an effective deterrent if used properly. However, it is important to know how to use it safely and legally. Be sure to research the regulations in your area before carrying bear spray.
- Q: What are the best practices for hiking in bear country?
- A: Hike in groups, make noise by talking or singing, and stay alert to your surroundings. Be aware of signs of bear activity, such as tracks, scat, and claw marks.
- Michigan Department of Natural Resources
- Bear Wise: https://bearwise.org/
Remember, black bears are wild animals and should be treated with respect. By understanding their behavior and taking precautions, you can help ensure a safe and enjoyable experience in bear country.
OutDoor Tech Lab gear recommendations for Black Bear hunting in Michigan
Popular options include 12-gauge shotguns loaded with slugs or 45-70 lever action rifles. These provide stopping power at short ranges when bears charge out of thick brush.
Some hunters use crossbows for stealth and lesser caliber rifles, down to 30-30.
Quality binoculars help scout and glass field edges. Rangefinders allow confirming shot distances. For bear stand setups, a compact spotting scope helps assess details on moving animals.
Scents and Baits
Heavily scented sprays and lures attract bears to bait sites. Anise oil, fish oil, pastries, and meat scraps tempt bears. Hang baits high to keep other animals away. Bring extra bait to refresh.
Portable hangs-on or ladder stands offer an elevated vantage point and easier aiming over bait piles. Safety harnesses secure hunters 15-20 feet up. Place downwind from expected approach paths.
Packs and Hauling
Backpacks, carts or sleds allow transporting heavy loads of gear, ammo, weapon, hang-ons, bait containers and other vital equipment into remote locations. Waterproof bags keep items dry.
Bear spray, air horns, sidearms, or tracking dogs provide last line of defense if bears charge and wildlife officials recommend not shooting. Bright orange visibility layers are also required.
With the right realistic scents and foods drawing bears in, durable stands placing hunters above the action, and hard-hitting firearms allowing ethical harvests – hunters pursue black bears across Michigan’s northern woodlands each season.
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