Michigan bear forum will consider harvest recommendations

A group of individuals representing various sportsmen’s clubs, the U.S. Forest Service, the agricultural community, and non-affiliated bait and hound hunters throughout Michigan will meet in St. Ignace Saturday, Dec. 17, to discuss the future of bear management in Michigan.

“This group represents our Michigan Bear Forum,” said Department of Natural Resources wildlife management specialist Kevin Swanson. “We have a very wide range of members who make up the bear forum, each representing a slightly different view with regard to bear management in Michigan.”

The meeting will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Little Bear East Arena located at 275 Marquette St. in St. Ignace. The purpose of the meeting is for the DNR and a variety of black bear user groups and other interested outdoor enthusiasts to consider potential harvest recommendations.

“There are always differing opinions over bear numbers and management in Michigan; many user groups feel we do not have enough bear and many believe we have far too many,” said Swanson.

The recent estimate of Michigan’s bear population is nearly 12,000 adult bear. The statewide bear harvest peaked in 2006 when nearly 2,500 bears were harvested. Due to various population concerns and habitat capabilities of the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula, that harvest number has been reduced in recent years to about 1,500 animals in order to grow the population.

“Now our bear abundance estimate and other trend indicators have improved, so we need to consider increasing the harvest in certain Bear Management Units, especially in the Lower Peninsula” said Swanson.

DNR Wildlife Division staff members will provide an overview of long-term harvest statistics, population estimates and trend indicators for each Bear Management Unit, while considering future license quotas and desired harvest. Once a harvest recommendation is finalized for each Bear Management Unit, the proposal will be brought to the Natural Resources Commission for consideration this winter.

Several other topics, including a potential ban on chocolate for bear bait and ongoing bear research projects, will be discussed as well. The bear forum meeting is open to the public, and DNR staff members will be available after the meeting to answer any questions.