Black Bear Boom!


Black Bear & Cub, photo by Mark Miller

The Detroit Free Press reports that the black bear population is booming in northern Michigan:

The black bear population has risen 29 percent in the region since 2012 and almost 50 percent since 2000, according to wildlife management specialist Kevin Swanson of the Department of Natural Resources.

Swanson says complaints about nuisance bears are increasing, especially in the Baldwin management unit, which extends from Muskegon County north to Leelanau County. says Swanson recently told the state Natural Resources Commission the bear harvest should be increased significantly in the Baldwin area.

He says the Upper Peninsula population has grown by a more manageable 11 percent since 2012. There are about 9,700 bears in the U.P. and over 15,000 statewide. Swanson is proposing a quota increase from 5,806 in 2016 to 5,925 for the 2017-18 season.

About the photo, Mark says: After yelling a quick “hey” at mama to get her to turn around, there was a moment that I wondered if I had done a dumb thing. I was about the same distance from the house, as she was to me (100 yds.) I guess me and my Nikon didn’t pose much of a threat, as they slowly went on their way.

View the photo bigger and see more in his In My Backyard slideshow.

PS: I realize that back in May of 2015, I featured another photo of this pair along with general info about black bears in Michigan.

Saturday Morning Stroll: Black Bear in Michigan

Saturday Morning Stroll Michigan Black Bears

Saturday Morning Stroll, photo by Mark Miller

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.

Read on for more including how they tranquilized and collared the Saginaw in an effort to learn more about bear movements. The DNR’s Living with Bears page shares some good tips for staying safe:

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!


TBT: Spikehorn Meyers and His Bears

Clare Harrison MI Spikehorn Meyers Clare County MI RPPC 1930's-40's M77

Clare Harrison MI Spikehorn Meyers Clare County MI, photo by Don…The UpNorth Memories Guy

Here’s a Throwback Thursday featuring one of Northern Michigan’s most colorful characters:

Harrison’s most colorful character was John “Spikehorn” Meyers, known to thousands of Michigan residents simply as Spikehorn. He was a showman, naturalist, politician, coal miner, tile manufacturer, furniture builder, inventor, realtor, bear hunter, lumberjack, and above all, individualist. The old gentleman had a fertile imagination under his white thatch of hair and full white beard.

According to neighbors, Spikehorn’s interest in the woods and buckskins developed around 1930, when he opened his Bear and Deer Park established on his property at the corner of US-27 and M-61. Rumor has it the park even contained an occasional buffalo.

Spikehorn and his friend, Red Eagle, dressed in buckskins for tourists and treated them to tales of their adventures in the woods. He enjoyed feeding his pets sweets, popcorn, and pop and loved posing with his deer and bears for cameras.

His enemies were the Conservation Officers, as indicated by the sign in front of his business: “Feed Conservation Officers to the Bear.”

Spikehorn also appears in one of the best Michigan history videos, Roaming Through Michigan, a classic newsreel.

View John’s photo big as a bear and see more in his Spikehorn Meyers & Harrison MI slideshow.

Tons more history and more roadside attractions on Michigan in Pictures!

Black Bear in Michigan


Bear, photo by Majestic View Photography

Here’s a few of the many Michigan Black Bear Facts available from the DNR:

What is the status of black bear in Michigan?

Approximately 15,000 – 19,000 black bears (including cubs) roam the hardwood and conifer forests of northern Michigan. About 90 percent of the bear live in the Upper Peninsula, while the remaining ten percent are mainly found in the northern Lower Peninsula. However, it is becoming increasingly common to see bear in the southern half of the Lower Peninsula. During the past twenty-five years, the status of the Michigan black bear has been elevated from pest to prized game species. Today, Michigan’s only bear species is protected by law and managed by the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

What are the physical characteristics of the black bear?

Most black bear in Michigan have dark black fur. Brown color variations are more common in western states. The size of a bear depends on its age, sex, diet, and season of the year. Adult female bear are generally smaller than adult males. In Michigan, female bear range from 100-250 pounds, while adult males weigh between 150-400 pounds. Adult black bear measure about three feet high when on all four feet and about five feet when standing upright. A bear is considered an “adult” when it is capable of reproducing, which generally occurs at three to four years of age in Michigan. In the wild, bear can live 20 to 30 years.

What is the home range of a black bear?

A bear’s home range is the area that provides sufficient food and cover for the animal to survive. Black bear are solitary animals, but family groups such as a sow and her cubs may be observed. Male black bear live in an area about 100 square miles in size, while females live in smaller areas of 10-20 square miles. Home range size is affected by food availability, the number of other bear in an area, and human development. As more people move to northern Michigan, the amount of undeveloped bear habitat declines.

What is the diet of the black bear?

In one word – everything. Black bear are considered opportunistic feeders, taking advantage of many seasonally available foods. Bear eat succulent, new green vegetation in the spring after they leave their dens. Colonial insects, such as ants and bees, may make up over half of their diet in late spring and early summer. Black bear experience rapid weight gain in years when wild berries, which are high in sugars and other carbohydrates, are available beginning in mid summer. Nuts and acorns, because they are high in fats and protein, are the best fall foods for bear when preparing for their winter’s sleep. If given the chance, black bear will supplement their natural diet with human garbage, pet foods, birdseed, or any foods placed to feed or attract other wildlife.

Read on for more, see the State of Michigan’s Black Bear section and also check Ursus americanus American black bear from the UM Animal Diversity Web for comprehensive information & photos.

View Dan’s photo out on black  and see more in his Animals slideshow.

More animals on Michigan in Pictures.