Hunters can expect a good bear hunt this fall

Lansing – Bear hunters in Michigan can plan for another year of
fine hunting in 2010.

“Last year was a pretty good year all around,” DNRE bear
specialist Adam Bump told Michigan Outdoor News. “We don’t expect
the success rates to vary much. It should be another good
year.”

Bump said bear densities are generally higher in the western
Upper Peninsula and start to drop as you move east and then south
into the Lower Peninsula.

“There are some exceptions,” Bump said, citing pockets of high
bear numbers in the Baldwin Bear Management Unit, the Deadstream
Swamp, the Luther/Mitchell Swamp, and areas in the heart of the Red
Oak BMU, all in the Lower Peninsula.

On first appearance, DNRE bear estimates make it appear as if
there are fewer bruins available for harvest this year. In reality,
the overall population is stable or slightly growing, according to
biologists. In recent years, the bear population has been pegged at
between 15,000 and 18,000. This year, biologists estimate the
population at around 11,100 bears. However, past estimates included
cubs, which are illegal to harvest. The new population model
recognizes only adult bears

“We’re fairly stable (across the bear range),” Bump said. “We
made some adjustments to our model (used for population estimates)
and found fewer bears in the western Upper Peninsula than we
thought there were. Based on our model projections we wound up
lowering our license quotas a little there.”

License numbers were raised, however, in the eastern U.P., and
the statewide allocation actually jumped by about 300 permits to
11,742.

Last year, state-licensed hunters tagged 2,082 black bears in
Michigan and tribal hunters killed another 32. Red Oak had the
highest number of kills at 407, including 19 by tribal members.
Newberry was second at 403 (six by tribal members), followed by 382
in Baraga (two by tribal members).

The only possible negative for the upcoming season may be a
heavy mast crop. The warm, wet summer the state has experienced is
conducive to mast crop growth.

“I’m not real sure how successful hunters will be because there
is a lot of soft mast out there this year,” said Terry Minzey, the
DNRE’s wildlife supervisor for the eastern U.P. “We have good acorn
mast and lots and lots of blueberries. The ability to bring them
into bait may be a little tough.”

Minzey said some houndsmen are concerned that hunters are
“pounding the bears too hard” in the eastern U.P. He disagrees.

“All of our data, and the input we get from bait hunters
indicate we’re on track,” he said.

Hunters in the western U.P. can expect to see about the same
number of bears as last year, according to Bob Doepker, the DNRE’s
wildlife supervisor for that area.

“I think it will be another good season,” he said. “We have
similar bear numbers as last year, maybe up slightly.”

In the northern Lower Peninsula, wildlife supervisor Tim Reis
said there are plenty of bears for the taking.

“We have a lot of bears down here,” Reis said. “I expect another
excellent season, weather permitting.

“We have a shorter season down here (23 days compared with 46
days in the U.P.) so a little bad weather can really have an
impact. When there is poor weather, hunters usually don’t put in as
much effort as when there is good weather.”

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