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Tag Archive | "black bear"

144-year bear absence


OUT-NatureNiche-blackbearBy Ranger Steve Mueller

 

The first sighting of black bear in Indiana occurred this summer in June, after a 144-year absence.  Several sightings of bears also occurred in Western Michigan. Several years ago, a female bear spent the winter near Ada and emerged in the spring with a cub.

Most of the 15,000 bears in Michigan are found in the Upper Peninsula, where extensive suitable habitat is present. In heavily human populated areas, bears are bound to encounter difficulties. All animals require adequate food, water, shelter, and appropriate living space.

Forests are reclaiming areas that were cleared in the late 1800’s. Bears are dispersing, exploring and claiming the developing habitat. Finding water is easy and shelter is not too difficult. Finding adequate food is more difficult. Bears feed on insects, fruit, vegetation, dead mammals, and live mammals when they can catch them.

The arrangement and availability of food, water, and shelter create good or poor living space. When the three are not in appropriate distribution, life becomes a challenge and wildlife does not succeed. It does not matter if the wildlife is an insect, fungi, bird, fish or mammal. Larger animals like black bears require more living space for their nature niche than smaller species.

It might be fun to see a bear where we live but living with bears is a challenge. Bears seek accessible food. Bird feeders concentrate high fat seeds, garbage can be a good food source, and even our gardens and apple orchards are attractive.

I recall a bear in an orchard on the heavily human-populated Old Mission Peninsula, between East and West Grand Traverse Bays, when I was state park ranger in the area. It was not suitable for the bear and the decision was made to move the bear. It was shot with a tranquilizer that was not adequate, so a second was used and the bear dropped dead. Giving the correct dose of anesthesia is tricky business, as is living with bears.

A beekeeper friend kept beehives but has given up the practice because he lives in bear country, in Northern Minnesota. Bears raided his hives and bird feeders. He adjusted to living with bears by eliminating his beehives and restricting bird feeding to when bears are in a deep winter sleep.

At Bryce Canyon National Park, where I was park ranger, a bear learned backpackers have food. Even when packs were hung in trees, the bear raided camps. Most bears run in the presence of people but this bear did not. It entered camps and took packs and food from campers. It destroyed packs and drove campers away. After several reports of the problem, three rangers investigated. The bold bear came toward the rangers and would not be deterred. It was shot and killed. Bears habituated to people become the most dangerous.

Many of us might recall a bear entering a Tennessee campground and killing a 6-year-old girl a decade ago. Over-hunting and habitat loss resulted in disappearance of bears in most regions a century ago. Habitat restoration requires we find ways to live safely with bears. It is important that bears remain fearful of humans. I have been fortunate on several encounters with bears, in wilderness areas, where they ran away when they saw me. Most bears fear humans.

Karen and I encountered a bear with a cub at Grand Tetons National Park. They approached the trail. We stopped and gave them plenty of room. Other people came from the other direction and did not hesitate. They kept walking toward the bears with disregard, despite our warning. Fortunately, the mother bear did not attack to defend its young. The stupid behavior of the people could have caused them injury or death. If that occurred, I am sure the bear would have been killed. Learning to live responsibly with bears requires appropriate human behavior.

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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Rare Bear


 

By Ranger Steve Mueller

 

A black bear was reported to have crossed Northland Drive near 15 Mile Road a few years ago. I wondered if it had followed the Rogue River to Cedar Creek, made its way to Little Cedar Creek, and possibly wandered through Ody Brook before getting to 15 Mile Road. A visitor told me he saw a bear track here a few years ago but I personally never saw evidence of the bear. The track was seen about the time bear crossed Northland. Many people may also recall the sow bear that wintered near Ada and emerged from her winter sleep with young.

Michigan’s regeneration of forest and wild land vegetation has made it possible for bears to re-inhabit areas where they lived prior to forest clearing and large human population settlement. Living near bears may present some problems. Generally, we can co-exist, but not always.

One September I was camping at Yellowstone National Park, at the edge of the campground. A ranger drove through the campground with a loudspeaker warning people to put coolers away and to clean camp well after eating because a bear was coming into the campground for easy food. The park service set a live trap to capture the bear for relocation but had not been successful yet.

My tent was set up with one side over me but I folded one side open so I could view the forest. At about 11 p.m. I was lying in the sleeping bag and saw the bear walking directly towards me. I was deciding if I should get out of the bag and into my vehicle but it was too late. The bear walked past my tent ignoring me. I heard it beat a food cooler on the picnic table that the campers next to me had not properly stored. After breaking it, the bear proceeded to bear proof garbage cans where it pounded them and walked on.

I went to sleep until 3 a.m., when I woke to the noise and breath of a bear. It had walked around my tent and was peering in at me. Our noses were inches apart. In the moonlight, I could see its silhouette. I experienced some fear. Bears are powerful and can be unpredictable. If the bear was getting used to people it might be more likely to injure me in some way.

I have encountered bears in the Upper Peninsula and other locations. In each instance the bear has immediately turned and ran in fear. Their escapes were noisy as they ran through brush, making stems push apart and slap back together.

This bear was inches from my head and a startle might cause it strike out with a powerful paw, break my neck or otherwise injure me. Maybe it would take a quick defensive bite before leaving. Fortunately, I did not have any food in my tent.

For a brief moment the bear and I looked each other in the eye. Almost instinctively I quietly said under my breath “hello.” The bear realized it was where it did not want to be. It turned and started trotting into the forest. I said “hello, hello, hello” a little louder with each word as it left. It picked up speed with each hello. My purpose at that point was to make noise that would keep the bear moving away.

The bear was not interested in me and probably feared me. It was looking for easy food. The neighbor campers were endangering the bear by leaving a cooler accessible. If the bear was captured, moved to a new location and later returned to the campground, it would probably be killed. People can learn to live with bears in nature niches but we need to act intelligently in their presence.

If I shouted at the bear when I first saw it nose to nose, it might have been more defensively aggressive and swipe me with a paw or bite me. Instead, a quiet hello alerted it and it departed quickly. It remains a pleasant memorable experience for me instead of tragic for either of us.

Natural history questions or topic suggestions can be directed to Ranger Steve (Mueller) at the odybrook@chartermi.net Ody Brook, 13010 Northland Dr, Cedar Springs, MI 49319-8433. 616-696-1753.

 

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Black bear education program for grades 6-8


OUT-black-bearThe Department of Natural Resources’ (DNR) Wildlife Division is offering a fun way for educators to integrate Michigan’s unique flora and fauna into their curriculum while still meeting the required educational standards. Teachers and their students now have an opportunity to experience A Year in the Life of a Michigan Black Bear.

Throughout the school year, students will learn about the life cycle of the Michigan black bear, general black bear biology and behavior, and how the DNR manages and maintains a healthy black bear population. An educator guide with activities and video lessons will be provided.
Classes also will have the chance to “follow” a black bear by using actual data points from a radio-collared bear to track it through its seasonal movements and see what a year in a bear’s life is really like.

This program is free of charge and open to all interested educators of grades 6, 7 and 8. Classes will need access to a computer lab and the Internet in order to use the mapping application to follow the bear. Educators also will need access to the Internet (YouTube) in their classrooms as well as a projector to make it easier for all students to see the video lessons.

Classrooms that participate in the program will be eligible to enter the Year in the Life of a Bear contest, where students can use what they learned to tell the story of a year in the life of a Michigan black bear. Students can choose to retell the actual journey of the bear they followed or get creative and use the information to interpret a typical bear’s yearly activities. Contest winners will be awarded prizes, provided by the Michigan Bear Hunters Association and the DNR, for their classrooms. Prizes are limited to one per school.

For more information and to sign up, please visit www.michigan.gov/wildlife and click on the “Education” button. Applications are due by Aug. 1 in order to receive the materials for the upcoming school year.

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DNR seeks Lower Peninsula bear den sites for ongoing research


 

While out in the field in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, hunters and trappers might come upon a denned black bear. The Department of Natural Resources (DNR) is looking for locations of denned bear in order to fit them with a radio collar for ongoing bear research.

“Information gathered from female bears helps us to manage the black bear population,” said wildlife biologist Mark Boersen. Currently, only three female bears are being monitored in the northern Lower Peninsula through the use of radio-tracking equipment.

“We would like to have a few more female bear collared throughout the area,” said Boersen. “Hunters are all over northern Michigan right now, and they provide a great set of eyes for information on denning locations.”

After locating a denned bear, biologists will determine if the animal is a good candidate for radio-collaring. Only female bears are selected. They will be sedated by a biologist and fitted with a radio-tracking collar and ear tags. Hair samples will be taken for DNA analysis, and a small tooth will be collected to determine the bear’s age. Upon completion of the short procedure, biologists will carefully return the bear to the den where it will sleep through the remainder of the winter months.

People who encounter bear dens are asked to record the location, with a GPS unit if possible, and contact Mark Boersen at the DNR Roscommon Operations Service Center at 989-275-5151. The public is reminded that they should not disturb a bear den or disturb, harm or molest a bear in its den.

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Bear hunter injured by black bear


A 49-year-old bear hunter from Shepherd, Mich., was injured Sunday night (Sept. 11) when he was attacked in his tree stand by a female black bear in Mackinac County, west of the village of Trout Lake, the Department of Natural Resources reported today.
The hunter sustained non-life threatening lacerations to his legs and was transported to a local hospital by a member of his hunting party.
According to initial reports, the hunter was seated approximately 10 to 12 feet above the ground in a tree stand when a female bear and three cubs approached. The sow climbed up the tree and clawed at the hunter and he attempted to kick her to fend off the attack. The bear retreated momentarily, and then returned up the tree to again claw at the hunter. At that point, he was able to shoot the bear with his rifle as it was attacking him.
Investigation of the incident is ongoing by the DNR and Michigan State Police.
The black bear is the only bear species native to Michigan, with approximately 90 percent of the bear population living in the Upper Peninsula. Black bears are shy by nature, and have a fear of humans. However, a perceived threat to cubs can provoke a mother bear to attack on occasion.
For more information on bears in Michigan, including how to prevent problems between bears and humans, go to www.michigan.gov/bear.

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