2020 Bear Forum Summary

The Bear Forum was held on December 12th, 2020 via Microsoft Teams. DNR Wildlife Division staff met with 17 stakeholders interested in black bear management to discuss potential harvest quota and regulation changes for the 2021-2022 bear regulation cycle. The Forum consisted of one representative from: Michigan Bear Hunters Association, Michigan Hunting Dog Federation, Michigan State Fox Hunters Association, Michigan Bow Hunters Association, Michigan Longbow Association, Michigan Traditional Bowhunters, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Upper Peninsula Sportsmen's Alliance, Michigan Farm Bureau, Michigan Commercial Beekeepers Association, Upper Peninsula Bear Houndsmen Association, Michigan United Coon Hunters Association, Michigan Archery Bear Hunters Association, Black Bear Bowhunters Society of Michigan, Safari Club International, United States Forest Service, and one unaffiliated hunter. An additional unaffiliated hunter who was unable to join the forum provided written input.


1.Bear Population Estimate and License Quota Recommendation

Upper Peninsula (UP) bear population: The 2019 UP bear population estimate is 9,902 bears and shows a 16% increase in bear abundance since 2012 and a 22% increase since 1992. An estimated 31% of UP hunters were successful during the 2019 hunting season and it took about 24 days of effort to harvest a bear. State-licensed hunters harvested 1,255 bears and tribal-licensed hunters harvested 46 bears in the UP during the 2020 bear hunting season (preliminary). In 2020, there were 177 nuisance bear complaints reported in the UP.

UP Bear Management Unit (BMU) Proposed 2021-22 Desired Harvest and License Quotas

BMU

2019-20
Desired Harvest

2021-22
Desired Harvest


% Change
Desired Harvest

2019-20Licenses

2021-22
Licenses*

% Change Licenses*

Amasa

165

165

0%

490

446

-9%

Baraga

300

300

0%

1550

1485

-4%

Bergland

200

200

0%

1195

1048

-12%

Carney

100

105

+5%

600

556

-7%

Drummond

5

5

0%

5

6

+20%

Gwinn

150

150

0%

1060

934

-12%

Newberry

260

260

0%

1110

1129

+2%

 

*Licenses calculated using 2017-19 average hunter success rates. Rates will be re-calculated with 2018-20 average hunter success rates when 2020 data becomes available.

Northern Lower Peninsula (NLP) bear population: The 2019 NLP bear population estimate is 2,402 bears and shows an increase in bear abundance of 69% since 2012 and 263% since 1992. An estimated 47% of NLP hunters were successful during the 2019 hunting season and it took about 11 days of effort to harvest a bear. State-licensed hunters harvested 471 bears and tribal-licensed hunters harvested 34 bears in the NLP during the 2020 bear hunting season (preliminary). In 2020, there were 185 nuisance bear complaints reported in the NLP.

 

NLP Bear Management Unit (BMU) Proposed 2021-22 Desired Harvest and License Quotas

BMU

2019-20
Desired Harvest

2021-22
Desired Harvest

% Change Desired Harvest

2019-2020
Licenses

2021-22
Licenses*

% Change Licenses*

Baldwin

135

165

+22%

260

338

+30%

Gladwin

20

26

+30%

110

121

+10%

Red Oak

245

314

+28%

700

770

+10%

 

*Licenses calculated using 2017-19 average hunter success rates. Rates will be re-calculated with 2018-20 average hunter success rates when 2020 data becomes available.

Summary of the forum discussion regarding the bear population estimate:

  • More than half of the forum members support the recommended quotas proposed by the DNR.
  • Some forum members would like to see a decrease in licenses available in Gwinn, Newberry, Red Oak, and Baldwin to either maintain or grow the bear population.
  • Others would like to see a higher harvest goal in areas of the UP to slow population growth.
  • Several forum members expressed concern over managing the bear population based on nuisance complaints. They were concerned that the increase in nuisance complaints was linked to the COVID-19 pandemic, as many homeowners were sheltering in place and able to observe more bears than normal.
  • The forum would like to see further clarification on what a “guided hunt” is and suggest that any person who is taking in money for service (baiting, running dogs, etc.) should be registered as a commercial guide.
  • Some expressed concern that the DNR is not capturing the total effort per harvested bear, particularly for bears harvested by hound hunters, in the bear population model. They indicated that the DNR should consider the number of hours, people, and technology used when calculating effort amount.

 

2.Bear bait barrel use on Department of Natural Resources (DNR)-managed lands:

Bear bait barrels were allowed on DNR-managed lands for a two-year trial period during the 2019-20 bear seasons. The DNR now must decide whether to recommend 1) continuing to allow bait barrels on DNR-managed lands with the same regulations as the two-year trial period, 2) to allow bait barrels on DNR-managed lands with modifications to the two-year trial period regulations, or 3) discontinuing the use of bear bait barrels on DNR-managed lands. Law Enforcement Division staff have reported that most bait barrels they encounter on DNR-managed lands are illegal. As a result, Wildlife Division staff do not recommend continuing to allow bear bait barrels on DNR-managed lands. Please see the 2020 Michigan Bear Digest for the bait barrel restrictions that were in place for the two-year trial period.

Summary of the forum discussion regarding bear bait barrels on DNR-managed lands:

Forum members were asked to vote for this regulation to 1) remain the same as the two-year trial period, 2) be modified in some way, 3) remove bait barrels from DNR-managed lands completely (DNR recommendation). Voting results: Remain:1; Modify: 8; Remove completely: 9

 

Support for bear bait barrels on DNR-managed lands with same regulations as two-year trial period

  • Michigan United Conservation Clubs resolution supporting bear bait barrels on DNR-managed lands with similar restrictions.

Support for bear bait barrels on DNR-managed lands with modification:

  • Barrels increase success rate but should be factored into desired harvest calculations.
  • Barrels are easier for downstate hunters to use and increase chances of successful hunt.
  • Open to any modifications that assist LED in mitigating violations.
  • Desire to remove the restriction on the distance a barrel could be placed from a road.

Do not support bear bait barrels on DNR-managed lands (remove completely):

  • There have been numerous illegal barrels found on DNR-managed lands and LED does not have a way of issuing violations if barrels are not identified.
  • Barrels are left on public land after baiting period is over, this generates “litter” and conflicts among different user groups.
  • Hunters should be responsible for checking bait at least every two days.
  • Barrels are illegal on US Forest Service lands because of the resource damage they cause.


3.Expansion of archery-only season in NLP:

Northern Lower Peninsula Wildlife Division staff recommend expanding the current archery-only bear hunting season in the Red Oak BMU to the Baldwin and Gladwin BMUs. The archery-only season in the Red Oak BMU takes place each year from the first Friday following October 1st through six days thereafter and does not allow the use of dogs to pursue bears. Expanding the Red Oak BMU archery-only season to the Baldwin and Gladwin BMUs could provide consistency across all three NLP BMUs, allow for more hunter opportunity, and increase harvest, particularly on private lands which may help address nuisance conflicts.

Summary of the forum discussion regarding the expansion of the archery-only season in NLP:

Forum members were asked to vote for this regulation if they: 1) Support expanding the archery-only season to the Baldwin and Gladwin BMUs (DNR recommendation), 2) Support with modification, 3) Do not support. Voting results: Support: 7; Modify: 11; Do not support: 0.

Support the expansion of archery-only season in NLP:

  • This would provide additional bait-only hunting opportunities for archery hunters. Currently, only the first day of the Baldwin and Gladwin season is for bait-only hunting.

Support with modifications:

  • Allow for hound hunters to participate, too.

 

4.Earlier start to bear baiting period:

Several Bear Forum members have asked the DNR to consider moving the current start date (31 days before the open season in a given BMU) for bear baiting to July 8th, to make it easier to train young bear hunting dogs, among other things. Wildlife Division staff do not recommend an earlier start to the bear baiting period due to concerns about wolf conflicts, bear-human conflicts, ecological carrying capacity, and bear health.

Summary of the forum discussion regarding an earlier start to bear baiting period:

Forum members were asked to vote for this regulation if they: 1) Support an earlier start to the bear baiting period or 2) Do not support. Voting results: Support: 6; Do not support: 10; Abstain from vote: 1

Support:

  • Begin training young hounds earlier.
  • Provide more food for bears earlier and it could potentially grow the population.
  • Wolves are only attracted to specific types of baits.

Do not support:

  • Could increase conflict with wolves in the UP.
  • Would not be advantageous, as there is no problem getting bears on baits with current baiting dates.
  • Bait stations up for longer periods of time could attract more wildlife than just bears.

 

The following proposals were brought forth by members of the Bear Forum. The DNR is gathering input and information on these proposals but are not considering these changes during the 2021-2022 regulation cycle.

 

1.Diversionary feeding of bears to reduce bear-human conflicts:

Although the DNR is not considering regulatory changes related to this topic for the 2021-22 bear seasons, the Bear Forum did discuss the potential use of diversionary, or intercept feeding, during spring near towns in the NLP in an attempt to reduce bear-human conflicts. This topic was brought forward by Bear Forum members, not the DNR.

Summary of the forum discussion regarding diversionary feeding:

No vote was taken, but a request for more information regarding diversionary feeding was made. Some members propose a diversionary feeding trial period in areas with high nuisance reports while other have concern over how to prevent deer (and other wildlife) from using bear feed stations.


2.Spring bear hunt without the use of dogs:

Although the DNR is not considering regulatory changes related to this topic for the 2021-22 bear seasons, the Bear Forum did discuss a potential spring bear hunting season without the use of dogs as an attempt to decrease conflicts between hunters that use dogs to hunt bears and those that do not. This topic was brought forward by Bear Forum members, not the DNR.

Summary of the forum discussion regarding a spring bear hunt:

No vote was taken, but a request for more information regarding a spring season was made. Some members felt that a spring bear hunting season may reduce conflicts between bait and hound hunters, while others have concerns over how a spring hunt would be viewed by nonhunters.