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Categorized | Outdoors

DNRE asks for help preventing nuisance bear problems

Each year in the late spring and early summer, wildlife officials in northern Michigan receive many calls about bears hanging around and even destroying man-made food sources such as bird feeders, trash cans and grills, and this year has been no exception, the Department of Natural Resources and Environment announced today.

“At this time of year, bears are on the move and are looking for food,” said DNRE wildlife technician Bill Rollo. “They are hungry after spending months hibernating, plus yearling bears are leaving their mothers and looking for new territory as the adult bears prepare for the upcoming breeding season. Dispersing bears can travel long distances and may find themselves in unfamiliar areas where they have to look for food on their own for the first time.”

When conditions are dry, as they have been throughout the northern Lower Peninsula and the entire Upper Peninsula in recent months, bears are more likely to resort to finding food in unnatural places, such as residential back yards.

“The majority of the complaints we receive about nuisance bears this time of year involve a food source,” Rollo said. “Bears are very food-motivated and have a good sense of smell. Birdseed is easy for them to find and is a high-energy food. Once discovered, they will keep coming back to the bird feeder until the seed is gone or the feeder has been removed.”

Hungry bears are also attracted to trash cans, burn barrels, livestock feed, pet food and outdoor grills. To reduce the potential for attracting bears and habituating them to humans, Rollo recommends that any potential attractants be removed until the bear has moved on.

“People are sometimes hesitant to take down their bird feeders, but bears that are rewarded with food each time they visit a yard may eventually become habituated,” Rollo said. “Habituated bears are not necessarily dangerous, but they can become a nuisance by visiting the yard during the day or causing damage to private property.”

With limited budgets and low staff numbers, Wildlife Division staff members are unable to respond to each nuisance bear complaint, and instead ask that everyone do their part to help reduce potential food sources in their yards first before calling for further assistance. The trapping of nuisance bears is only authorized by DNRE wildlife officials in cases of significant property damage or threats to human safety.

Anyone experiencing problems with nuisance bears, who has taken the appropriate action to remove food sources for a period of one to two weeks but has not seen results, should contact the nearest DNRE office and speak with a wildlife biologist or technician for further assistance.

For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/wildlife.

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