Sunday, February 5th, 2023
Sunday, February 5th, 2023

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Sportsmen Since 1967

Hunters can assist with nuisance-bear control

Marquette, Mich. — It is now legal for bear-license holders to shoot a bear before bear season actually begins. Here’s how it works.

Starting this year, the DNR will have the ability to issue bear-damage shooting permits for bears causing agricultural, horticultural, or apiary (beehive) damage before the bear season begins in areas open to bear hunting. The permits can be issued as early as July 1. 

HB 5226, which was sponsored by U.P. state Rep. Ed McBroom, was signed by Gov. Rick Snyder last December and became Public Act 407 of 2014. 

The act allows hunters who are successful in drawing a bear license to use that license – on property on which the owner has a bear-damage shooting permit –  to harvest a nuisance bear. Bear licenses still may only be used in the  bear management unit for which that license is valid. 

The trick is going to be finding hunters who are willing to use their licenses to shoot a problem bear before the regular bear season begins.

“Who would be willing to do that?” DNR bear program leader Kevin Swanson asked rhetorically. “I wouldn’t. Most bear hunters are already going to have plans to hunt during the regular season dates.”

Regulations regarding bag limits and legal bears under bear-damage shooting permits are the same as during bear season. The permit is only valid for one bear that is more than a year old. Cubs and sows with cubs are protected. Permit holders must possess a base license in addition to a bear license before it is legal for them to shoot a bear.

Hunters are not permitted to use bait or hounds when trying to fill a bear-damage permit. Presumably, problem bears already are feeding on some type of crop such as corn or oats, apples, or cherries or beehives, and hunters would be required to shoot bears at or near those food sources. Bears taken on damage permits would have to be registered at a DNR office within 72 hours.

Farmers or beehive owners who either know or suspect they are experiencing crop damage from bears should contact the nearest DNR office for assistance. Under the provisions of Public Act 407, a DNR employee must respond to the complaint within four days to assess the damage. The requested permit must be granted or denied within 10 days.

Once a bear-damage permit is issued, the sooner a hunter can respond who is willing to shoot the bear, the better. Hunters who obtain bear licenses and are willing to use their tag on a nuisance bear should make that known to the local DNR wildlife biologist and/or Swanson, DNR Bear Program leader, at the DNR’s Marquette office. If Swanson is notified, that will enable him to develop a list of potential hunters, so when a bear-damage permit is issued a hunter can be notified quickly. Swanson can be reached at (906)-226-1357 or swansonk@michigan.gov.

Farmers or beehive owners who are experiencing damage from bears also may contact Swanson for assistance. 

No more than 5 percent of the bear licenses issued for a BMU are to be used for bear-damage permits. If fewer than 20 bear licenses are offered for any BMU, only one may be used as a bear-damage permit. The program’s effectiveness is scheduled to be evaluated after three years.

Organizations and groups who are in support of the new bear-damage shooting permits include the Michigan Farm Bureau, Michigan United Conservation Clubs, Michigan Bear Hunters Association, Michigan Hunting Dog Federation, The U.P. Bear Houndsmen, and the Michigan Commercial Beekeepers.

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