black bears
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Michigan Needs Help Keeping Black Bears at a Distance

You'd think it wouldn't take much to keep black bears wild.

Also, you'd think it would be easy for folks to keep their distance from the creatures.

However, as summer rolls along in Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources is asking for help. Help to keep black bears away from people and to keep them as wild animals.

"When situations occur concerning a bear, some form of food has usually attracted the bear into the area," says DNR wildlife communications coordinator Katie Keen. "The common element is usually a bird feeder—seed, suet and even hummingbird feeders. The good news is a homeowner can choose to take control of the situation."

The state has an estimated population of 12,000 black bears. In the northern Lower Peninsula, there are about 2,000. The U.P. is home to around 10,000 bears.

As residents and visitors spend more time outdoors, the chances for attracting bears increases. That's especially true since many outdoor activities center around food in the summer.

The DNR says black bears are usually shy. However, their noses are phenomenal, and they remember where they find food.

Also, they will go just about anywhere for a free meal.

"Bear are smart, so we have to be smarter," says Keen. "They are wild animals that are unpredictable and can travel many miles. Your habits can affect those around you, and a bear that loses its natural fear of humans because food has been introduced can end up being bold or dangerous and may need to be put down."

Besides bird feeders, the bears are attracted by grills, garbage, pet food and bee hives.

"Don't wait for the first time a bear knocks down your bird feeder or garbage can; be proactive and don't let a habit form," says Keen.