The Michigan DNR is asking for hunters help to keep the bear population in check.
The Michigan Department of Natural Resources is contemplating several changes for the 2017/2018 bear season. The bear populations in both the upper and lower peninsulas are doing better than expected. So, they want hunters to help.
In 2016, the bear harvest quota was 5,806, and officials are looking to increase that number to 5,925. The area that looks to have the largest increase is the Baldwin Bear Management Unit, which currently has only an 80-bear quota. 50 bears were harvested in the Baldwin Unit in 2016 leading the DNR to increase the number to 155.
In tangent with the license increases come other rules to aid hunters in a successful harvest, starting with extending the preseason baiting duration. Currently, baiting can start 31 days before the season and continue through the duration of the season. The idea of using bait barrels on public land is also being tossed around. Of the previous options, the DNR is not in favor of either of them.
Bears have been protected in Michigan since 1925 and occupy approximately 35,000 square miles of the Northern Lower Peninsula and most of the Upper Peninsula. Hunting is the primary tool for managing the population. MLive reports that there over 15,000 bears statewide with roughly two thirds living in the Upper Peninsula. Bear populations have grown 29% since 2012 and will continue to rise. Increases have resulted in more human-bear interactions - mostly negative ones. In the Baldwin area, bluff charges have been on the rise, as have vehicle collisions.
With the Ann Arbor deer sterilization being a costly endeavor it's good to see a plan that allows hunters to manage game populations. This is still only a plan, however, with the decision coming down in March.