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Cubs survive illegal black bear killing in Oceana County


Arraignment date set for Ottawa County man

Michigan Department of Natural Resources wildlife biologists say the recent illegal killing of a female black bear, which had three cubs with her, has aroused great public interest.

With the help of the public, DNR conservation officers were able to present a case to Oceana County Prosecuting Attorney Joseph Bizon. On Thursday, October 1, Bizon issued a warrant, charging a 27-year-old Ottawa County man with the unlawful taking of the bear.

Biologists said the cubs have a good chance of surviving on their own, but they would have been better off had the sow accompanied them through the rest of the fall, and selection of a winter denning site.

“Fortunately, in this situation, these cubs were born in early 2015,” said DNR bear specialist Kevin Swanson, in Marquette. “Cubs at this age can already be the size of some yearlings and they understand how to collect food for themselves.”

The bear, killed Sept. 23, in the Ruby Creek area of Oceana County’s Colfax Township, was an animal DNR biologists had been studying. It had blue tags in each of its ears.

“This sow was also radio-collared,” Swanson said. “We had been tracking her, and her young were of good size.”

Shooting a collared study bear is not illegal but killing a female bear accompanied by bear cubs is.

Bizon said the name of the man charged in the warrant is being withheld pending his arraignment at 10 a.m. Oct. 14 in Oceana County District Court in Hart. On Saturday, the man turned himself in at the Oceana County Sheriff’s Department and was released after paying 10 percent of a $2,500 bond.

The charge is a misdemeanor, punishable by up to 90 days in jail, $1,000 in fines, $1,500 restitution and revoking of hunting privileges for the remainder of the year of conviction and three years subsequent.

“This incident, involving the taking of an illegal bear during our bear season, was the direct result of citizen involvement assisting our conservation officers, with critical information that allowed for a rapid investigation, and collection of evidence,” said Gary Hagler, chief of the DNR’s Law Enforcement Division “Our officers benefit greatly when citizens take action, coming forward with accurate and timely information related to fish and wildlife violations.”

Lt. John Jurcich of the DNR’s Cadillac office said expanding bear populations are of great interest in this area to hunters and non-hunters alike. In this case, the illegal taking of a sow with cubs, that was frequently observed in the area by residents, and had been the subject of research by the department, prompted residents to step forward with valuable information.

“The investigation revealed that the hunter who was licensed to hunt bear in the Baldwin Unit had prior knowledge of the sow, with cubs, coming into his bait location, based on trail camera photos of this very distinctive collared bear,” Jurcich said. “On the evening the bear was taken, information further indicates the hunter witnessed the cubs prior to his decision to take the bear with archery gear.”

Jurcich said investigating officers were told the bear was taken at a distance of 15 yards with a compound bow. The hunter registered the bear as required by law and DNR wildlife division staff recovered the radio collar at that time.

DNR officers recovered the cape of the bear during their investigation near Port Sheldon in Ottawa County. The carcass of the animal will be donated for food.

To report violations to the DNR, call the Report All Poaching (RAP) hotline at 1-800-292-7800, or use the RAP online form. Incidents may be reported confidentially. The RAP line is staffed 24 hours each day.

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Deer hunting preview for Michigan

OUT-Deer-hunting-preview-webDepartment of Natural Resources wildlife biologists say that they are optimistic about this year’s deer hunting season.

Preliminary field reports indicate a good fawn crop and healthy-looking deer. Last year an estimated 614,593 hunters spent 8.8 million days afield, harvesting roughly 329,000 deer, a significant decrease from 2013. Some 41 percent of hunters successfully tagged at least one deer last year.

Prospects in southern Michigan may be improved because of a later-than-usual corn harvest last year. Hunters are reminded that the progress of the corn harvest has an effect on early season hunting results, but the corn harvest is almost always complete by the end of the regular firearms season, and good opportunities remain during muzzleloader, late-archery and late-antlerless seasons.

The deer harvest in the Upper Peninsula is expected to be low again following a series of difficult winters and the subsequent effects on the deer herd. In addition, the population may take longer to rebound due to the number of predators on the landscape. Therefore, new regulation changes aimed at protecting antlerless deer have been enacted, which includes removing the antlerless option from archery season for license and combo license holders.

The Independence Hunt, for qualified hunters with disabilities, is Oct. 15-18. Archery season is Oct.1-Nov. 14, and Dec. 1-Jan. 1, statewide. Firearms season is Nov.15-30, statewide. Muzzleloading seasons are Dec. 4-13 in Zone 1 (Upper Peninsula) and Zone 2 (Northern Lower Peninsula) and Dec. 4-20 in Zone 3 (southern Michigan).

A late antlerless hunt in selected Lower Peninsula counties on private land is Dec. 21-Jan. 1. Please see the 2015 Hunting and Trapping Digest and the 2015 Antlerless Deer Digest (www.michigan.gov/dnr) for pertinent details.

The season limit is two bucks. Hunters must purchase a combo license to take two bucks, one of which must have at least four antler points on one side. Hunters who purchase the deer license may harvest a buck with at least one antler that is 3 inches in length unless hunting in an area with antler point restriction. For specific antler point restriction information by location see pages 32 and 33 in the Hunting and Trapping Digest.

Hunters may take one antlerless deer per antlerless deer license. Antlerless licenses are available by quotas for each deer management unit (DMU) by public and private land. In most DMUs, hunters are restricted to five antlerless licenses. IN DMU 487, hunters may buy up to 10 licenses. There is no restriction on antlerless licenses in the nine-township Core Chronic Wasting Disease Area – DMU 333 – that encompasses parts of Ingham, Clinton and Shiawassee counties. Please see the 2015 Antlerless Deer Digest for details.

Hunters also are encouraged to bring their deer to check stations. Check the DNR website (www.michigan.gov/deer) for details.

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Balancing human ecology in nature niches

Ranger Steve’s Nature Niche

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Bread and water are not enough. More is expected of me beyond simply extracting bread and water from the landscape. Nature stewardship is expected that builds a healthy future for my immediate family and my family lineage 2000 years hence. We move too slowly with responsible behavior, by frequently placing personal desires above society’s sustainability. Balancing “Me first” behavior with “Society First” is a significant challenge.

A social, economic, ecological triple bottom line seeks to balance personal and social behavior. Finding balance is difficult. Many people only consider immediate personal economic interests without balance for social and ecological needs that sustain society.

Our political culture has three major factions with Democrats leaning toward “Society First,” Republicans leaning toward “Me first,” and Independents trying to pick and choose from both to sustainable balance that serves all members of society. Of course, we have left and right wing extremists that are dividing our society instead of building consensus and fairness for the rights of all. That of course is an over simplification but space does not permit exhaustive analysis for this paragraph or those following. The column offers opportunity for self-reflection for how we live with nature and others.

Religious cultures strive toward ideals perceived by spiritual leaders that lived long before us. In college cultural geography, I learned religions place the brakes on change, while science knowledge hastens change. The two World Views are valuable for providing checks and balances that ideally promote change, while maintaining a sustainable future, without relinquishing practices that keep society functional socially, economically, and ecologically.

The US constitution ideally ensures individual freedoms balanced with rights, for all members of society. Science and religion can balance maintenance of ecological integrity of “Eden,” by tempering our freedom of choice to take from creation, without regard for future generations or others rights. I suggest we should strive to secure personal needs, without excessive desires that disrupt ecological niches required for future generations. Both religion and science are used to preserve Creation’s biodiversity but they are also used to take from Creation’s biodiversity, without restraint or concern for others and future sustainability.

Religions frequently serve political agendas instead focusing on spiritual ideals. This has resulted in factions that have become major religions and various denominations within religions. It is the role of the individual to discover a healthy spiritual relationship with the Creator that balances personal desires beyond one’s needs, with sustainability of Earth’s biodiversity for future generations.

Science seeks cause and effect discoveries, without the influence of human desires or outcomes, and restricts itself to using physical evidence. Use of scientific discoveries depends on society, not science, to determine social, economic, and ecological values and then use them appropriately. It is the role of society to balance personal desires, with sustainability for future generations without relinquishing the future to personal wants or greed beyond the needs for those living at present.

The human species is unique in being able to perceive past, present, and future implications, for how our behavior in nature niches affects future generations. If we behave in a manner that keeps future biodiversity secure, a sustainable environment will also meet immediate family needs and we achieve success. A problem results when our desires infringe on the health of our future generations and other species. Excessive desires and habitat destruction are similar to taking forbidden fruit from Eden.

World Views should seek balance among the triple bottom line for social/economic/environmental sustainability.

When we lose species such as bees and birds that support ecological integrity, we lose future potential for building family hopes and dreams in present and future generations.

Our values are directly connected to the land we call home (soil, plants, insects, and vertebrates). We have little understanding of ecology in our yards, or what is responsible behavior for future generations. Learning to live in healthy nature niches is essential for sustaining family life in the present and the future.

Sustainability of biodiversity depends on maintaining healthy nature in our yards, community, state, nation, and the world.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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DNR answers questions about status of Lake Michigan fishery

Interested anglers now can learn more about the current status of Lake Michigan’s fishery, thanks to a detailed document produced by the Department of Natural Resources.

Interested anglers now can learn more about the current status of Lake Michigan’s fishery, thanks to a detailed document produced by the Department of Natural Resources.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has posted a two-page document to its website to provide updated information about the current status of the Lake Michigan fishery.

This document, in an effort to better inform anglers and the public, answers many of the questions the DNR frequently receives regarding Lake Michigan’s salmon populations and how fisheries managers are addressing their declines.

The document “Lake Michigan Fishery Update” can be found at michigan.gov/fishing. Questions within the document include:

Why is the DNR managing for less salmon in Lake Michigan?

Will Lake Michigan follow Lake Huron?

Will the stocking cuts and possession limits be enough?

Why won’t Chinook salmon eat gobies?

“We believe the questions answered in this document will paint a clearer picture about what sportfish populations in Lake Michigan really look like and what that means for anglers who pursue them,” said DNR Fisheries Division Chief Jim Dexter. “Additional work that we’re doing—including both angler and fish assessments and fish modeling—will continue to add to this picture and give us better ideas about future steps to ensure Lake Michigan continues to maintain its world-class fishing reputation.”

For even more information on fishing in Michigan, visit michigan.gov/fishing

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Man suffers injuries in black bear attack


The Michigan Department of Natural Resources announced that a 46-year-old man was injured Thursday evening, September 17, in a suspected attack by a black bear in Greenwood Township, Clare County. The man was treated for minor injuries at a local hospital and released.

At approximately 7:30 p.m., the man was alone in a ground blind, hunting for porcupine. The man said a black bear came from behind, knocked him over and attacked him. Using his hunting knife, the man stabbed the bear, which scared it off. The bear is thought to be injured.

The DNR was informed about 45 minutes later. Sgt. Jon Wood spoke with the individual and advised him to seek medical attention. The DNR’s Law Enforcement Division is continuing to investigate the incident.

OUT-Bear-attack-Clare-County-webThe DNR is placing a bear trap in the area. The DNR is asking the public to be mindful of the department’s efforts to capture the bear. If a bear is sighted in the area of Greenwood Township where the incident occurred, please contact the DNR’s Report All Poaching (RAP) Hotline, 800-292-7800.

Michigan has an estimated black bear population of 8,000 to 10,000 bears, with 90 percent of the population in the Upper Peninsula. Bear frequent locations in this area of Clare County, where this attack occurred.

The DNR reminds the public that black bears are generally fearful of humans and will usually leave if they become aware that people are present. Here are some important facts to remember when you are in an area where bears may be present:

  • To avoid surprising bears, travel in small groups and make noise.
  • If you encounter a bear, stand your ground and then slowly back away. Do not turn away. Do not show fear and don’t run. Do not play dead.
  • Make yourself look bigger and talk to the bear in a stern voice.
  • If actually attacked, fight back with a backpack, stick, or bare hands.
  • Carry pepper spray, which has been shown to be effective in fending off bear attacks.

For additional information on living with bears, visit the DNR website at www.michigan.gov/bear.

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Birds plummet to the ground

OUT-Nature-niche-Ranger-Steve-Head-ShotBy Ranger Steve Mueller

After supper at about 7:20, I sat on the back the porch. There was little bird activity. A lone darner dragonfly was hunting at tree top height. Small birds too high to identify flew over. A robin, hummingbird, and morning doves perched in the trees.

Suddenly there was commotion in a tree top and a bird appeared to plummet to the ground. A Sharp-shinned hawk had a Mourning Dove in its talons. The dove struggled but did not get free. The hawk was immature, with dark barred feathers running vertically on its light breast. Adults have transverse bars across the breast.

The young bird began plucking feathers from its prey in preparation for dinner. Feathers were flying in all directions. The hawk’s tail raised in the air and I saw tail feathers were all the same length. That confirmed it was a Sharp-shinned Hawk instead of a similar looking Cooper’s Hawk.

Cooper’s Hawks have tail feathers that are successively shorter outward from the center of the tail. The Sharp-shinned’s tail feathers are all the same length and make the tail appear squared at the end instead of rounded. Sharp-shinned hawks are slightly smaller but size is hard judge. The head on Sharp-shinned is not as bulky as that of Cooper’s.

Suddenly more commotion while the hawk was plucking its prey. The hawk must have loosened its grip and the dove escaped. I thought the dove was dead and maybe the hawk did also. The two were about 50 feet from me, as I watched the drama with binoculars. The hawk pursued the escaping dove and the dove managed to bank to tall grass and irises by the porch, about 15 feet from me. The hawk was right on its tail, but the dove entered and hid in the vegetation. The hawk attempted to reach the dove as it moved to protect itself and the hawk jumped backwards.

I could not see the dove in the vegetation. The hawk moved around the clump figuring out how to recapture its prey. Though I was sitting 15 feet away as still as a statue, the hawk saw me. The hawk’s attention was divided between me and the dove. The hawk was nervous with my presence and flew up and landed on our picnic table. It continued to watch me while I pretended to be invisible.

The hawk flew to a low branch on a dead ash tree in the yard. A Mourning Dove perched at the top of the tree departed. The hawk surveyed the area and must of have felt too threatened by my presence to return to the grass clump for its dinner. It flew over the house and out of sight.

I felt badly for the injured dove and would prefer the hawk had killed it for a filling meal. By departing, the young hawk will need to capture another live bird. I went into the house with hopes that hawk would return to finish what it started before it was completely dark.

Hopefully the young hawk learned the hunting lessen that it needs to kill its prey before plucking feathers. I once witnessed a Peregrine Falcon capture a dove and it almost immediately opened the skull and began eating the brains. It left plucking for later. This young bird might go to sleep hungry because darkness was closing the day.

We attract birds to seed feeders and hawks to feed on live birds. People generally do not mourn the sunflower seed embryos eaten by birds but they mourn the loss of birds we feed. In healthy nature niches, there is a place for seedeaters, and for predators that eat the seedeaters. When niches are healthy, there is an abundance of life to provide nourishment for migrating hawks that need adequate energy for their southward migration.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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Teen gets first buck during youth hunt


Derek Rose, age 16, the son of Pete and Cherri Rose, of Solon Township, got his first buck ever during last weekend’s youth hunt. He got the 8-point buck on Sunday, September 20, while hunting on private land, in Kent County, with his dad, Pete. The deer weighed in at 160 lbs. after being dressed out. Congratulations, Derek!

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Weekly fishing tip


From the Michigan DNR

OUT-fishing-tip-walleye-april2-2015webEarly autumn walleye – what you need to know

Targeting walleye in the fall can offer some of the best fishing of the season. Here are a few things to keep in mind if you target this sport fish in the coming weeks.

  1. In early fall walleye can be found in a variety of locations within the water body, including deep, shallow or anywhere in between. Keep that in mind and don’t stick to one depth range.
  2. If you’re out in the morning, check the areas where deep water meets the shallow spots.
  3. As the day goes by, start heading deeper, as walleye can be photosensitive.
  4. Don’t forget to try your luck during the nighttime hours. This can be a very productive time during the fall, especially along rock points and flat areas.

 This tip was adapted from Michigan Outdoor News. 

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Ladies’ guided pheasant hunt set for Oct. 11 in Belding

The Department of Natural Resources invites ladies interested in trying out pheasant hunting to its annual guided pheasant hunt in Belding Oct. 11. Pictured here is the hunt group from the 2014 event.

The Department of Natural Resources invites ladies interested in trying out pheasant hunting to its annual guided pheasant hunt in Belding Oct. 11. Pictured here is the hunt group from the 2014 event.

The Department of Natural Resources, in partnership with Pine Hill Kennels and Sportsman’s Club and the Grand Valley Chapter of Pheasants Forever, will host a ladies’ pheasant hunt Sunday, Oct. 11, at 3329 Johnson Road in Belding, Michigan.

Registration and coffee will begin at 9 a.m. The day’s events will include warming up with shooting clay pigeons on the skeet range, hunting with a guide for three pheasants, learning to clean the birds and enjoying a gourmet lunch.

Beginners are welcome. Registration is limited to 12 ladies, 18 years of age or older. The cost for the day is $45 per person. Firearms are available for beginners, if needed. All participants will go home with memories and a special gift.

Pre-registration is required. Please call Scott Brosier at 616-874-8459 to sign up.

“The hunt was such a success last year, and all the ladies had a great time. Some had never shot a gun before and were shooting birds out of the sky by late morning.” said Donna Jones, DNR wildlife technician at Flat River State Game Area. “We look forward to making this experience available again to ladies who want to try pheasant hunting.”

Established in 1975, Pine Hill Sportsman’s Club offers its members some of the finest in upland bird hunting anywhere on four farms totaling more than 600 acres. Pine Hill’s intensive land management program not only benefits the population of free-ranging upland birds, but also enhances habitat for deer, turkey and waterfowl.

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River fishing challenges

By Ranger Steve Mueller

By Ranger Steve Mueller

Fishing inland lakes in summer and ice fishing in winter is wonderful outdoor exposure. It’s a joy to look through the ice hole and observe swimming fish. Ice shanties create a dark room and sun filtered through the ice lights the water. The hole resembles a TV viewing screen. I find joy watching fish and catching them.

Now is a time when anglers crowd the rivers to catch fish swimming upstream. I am an infrequent angler and had little experience river fishing until I was teenager. At age 15, my older brother took me fishing to Fletcher County Park, near Alpena, and it became an annual Memorial Day weekend event.

At that park, I learned an important fishing lesson. Many Northern Pike were just under the size limit and needed to be released. It was fun for me to reel in a fighter big or small. I am sure that is not what the fish considered a good time. I prefer continuously casting my lure instead of sitting with a static line waiting for fish to bite. I am too antsy. Watching a bobber is not the best time for me.

Thunder Bay River flowed into and out from Sunken Lake. We floated the rowboat downstream to where we thought “the big one” would be lying in wait for its next meal. It was a great place to perfect casting skills. Too long a cast would land on a log; too short would not reach hidden hollows where fish were waiting; and too far to the left or right was not suitable for fish to hunt their prey. My older brother, Mike, was excellent at casting. Whatever he did was always better than I could do. I think that is true of older brothers in general (true or not).

As we floated down the lazy river, we would cast to where we thought fish were waiting. I hooked one and the fish decided it was not going to be landed. One must not to exert too much instant pressure on the line or it might snap. I kept constant pressure on the line and reeled the fish closer as it fought for freedom with powerful “fish moves.” Gradually the fish exhausted and was drawn close to the boat.

When it was close, I released some line and the fish took its chance to escape. Mike, with shock, said, “What are you doing?!” I said I wanted to play the fish longer. He said, “You cannot do that.” Instantly I learned why. The fish immediately swam to an underwater log and swam around the log. The log now caught me on one end of the line and the fish on the other. Mike rowed to the log that was submerged near the water surface. We could see the fish on a short line unable to get away.

It was near the water surface and Mike was able to net it. We landed the fish and prepared it for dinner. Mike explained more do’s and don’ts for fishing while we enjoyed a Northern Pike dinner. We enjoyed bass, sucker, and pan fish dinners on our fishing weekends. We smelt fished the Great Lakes. Each fish species has unique habitat requirements for temperature, depth, vegetation, currents, and prey.

The fish we catch taste better than those caught by other people. When one spends time exploring fish nature niches to learn behavior, selected habitats, and experiences time in beautiful wild places fishing, it adds flavor to the meal. This makes the fish we catch the best tasting. It is a psychological benefit that transposes to our taste buds.

I learned to never allow slack in the line because the fish will seize the escape opportunity. We were lucky to eat the fish that taught me a lesson. It is good for people to learn where fish come from. Too many people think they come from grocery stores or fish markets instead of rivers, lakes, and oceans. We cannot protect habitats if we do not know them from personal intimate outdoor experience. Go outdoors.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at odybrook@chartermi.net – Ody Brook Nature Sanctuary, 13010 Northland Dr. Cedar Springs, MI 49319 or call 616-696-1753.

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