Longer daylight hours, warming temperatures and new green plants have wildlife moving and sightings increasing. Michigan’s black bear is a species that attracts a lot of attention when spotted. Michiganders love black bears – this up-north icon decorates walls and coffee mugs, homes, restaurants and hotels. However, spring also brings increased phone calls to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources from home and business owners who have issues with bears.
"Everyone has a different point when they are going to pick up the phone and call us,” said DNR wildlife communications coordinator Katie Keen. “The majority of calls we receive about bears involve a bird feeder that has been visited multiple times. Taking the feeder down before it’s found by a bear can eliminate future problems. A bear doesn’t forget a free meal.”
Keen said that the easiest thing people living in bear country can do to avoid problems is remove bird feeders during the spring and summer months. Black bears are found throughout more than half the state. With an estimated 2,000-plus adult bears in the northern Lower Peninsula and almost 10,000 in the Upper Peninsula, there are a lot of bears searching for food, even with plenty of natural food sources available.
Bears find bird seed and suet especially attractive because of their high fat content compared to other natural food sources, and these foods draw bears out of their natural habitat, where normally they would be eating roots of early spring plants and insect larvae.
Once a bird feeder is discovered, a bear will keep coming back until the seed is gone or the feeder has been removed.
“Bears that receive a food reward when around homes, yards and neighborhoods typically lose their natural fear of humans and can become a threat to humans and pets,” said Keen. “If a bear walks through your property and no food reward is given, the bear will move along on its own. Help your community and keep bears at a distance. Bears are smart, so be smarter, and remove your bird feeders so you don’t attract bears to your property.”
For your safety, never intentionally feed or try to tame bears – it is in your, and the bear’s, best interest.