Recently there have been several reports of black bear sightings in Michigan, in traditional ranges like Leelanau County where these bear were photographed and even as far south as the state line in southwest Michigan and Washtenaw County, where The Hastings Banner shared that while some are escapees from private facilities, others are ranging south:
“We’re interested in learning more about how they use the landscape in southern Michigan,” explained DNR wildlife research biologist Dwayne Etter. “The landscape in southern Michigan is very different from traditional bear habitat further north.”
…The Saginaw County bear is the southernmost collared bear in Michigan. Other collared bears south of traditional Michigan bear country include a male that was trapped and collared outside of Whitehall in orchard country, as well as a sow with cubs in Newaygo County, and a male in Oceana County. “We got a good break getting this bear collared this far south,” said Etter, who is studying how bears disperse in southern Michigan.
In recent years, bears have been documented in Washtenaw, Ionia and Ingham counties. “There was a bear sighted just north of Lansing several years ago,” Etter said. “We have photos of tracks from Sleepy Hollow State Park in April.
With the exception of baiting for hunting purposes in remote areas, placing food to attract bear near homes, cottages, parks, campgrounds and picnic areas may teach them to associate people with food. This may place them and people at risk of injury.
Black bear have enormous appetites and an excellent sense of smell, and are capable of remembering the locations of reliable food sources from year to year. They will travel great distances to find food. When natural foods such as tender vegetation, nuts, berries and insects are scarce, bear are likely to come into contact with people. Problems occur when bear attempt to feed or actually feed on human foods, garbage, pet foods or birdseeds.
Although most bear are secretive and shy by nature, they will tolerate contact with people when their natural food is scarce. Because they are large and powerful animals, they must be respected.
Black bear are generally fearful of humans and will leave if they are aware of your presence. In the rare circumstance that you encounter a bear that does not turn and leave, first try to scare it off by yelling while leaving a clear, unobstructed escape route for the bear. If the bear stands its ground, makes threatening sounds or bluff charges, you are too close. Take slow steps backward while continuing to talk to the bear in a stern tone. In the rare event of an attack, fight back with a backpack, stick or your bare hands. Black bears have retreated in similar situations.
Mark took this photo on the Leelanau Peninsula and wrote: When my neighbor called me early on a Saturday morning to tell me a bear was heading my way, I had to go looking for him. View his photo bigger and see more in his In My Backyard slideshow.
Want to know more about bear cubs with triple the bear cuteness? Check out Bear Triplets on Michigan in Pictures!