Preliminary bear kill similar to last year
Marquette, Mich. — Preliminary results point to another good bear hunting season overall, despite mixed results in some areas of the state.
“It looks like it was a very successful season. Our harvest numbers may be down slightly from last year, but last year we had a very high success rate,” DNR bear specialist Kevin Swanson told Michigan Outdoor News. “We won’t know for sure until December after we get preliminary numbers on the harvest.”
In 2015, 6,951 state-licensed hunters combined to kill 1,625 black bears in Michigan for a success rate of about 23 percent.
This year the state issued 6,896 bear kill tags, down slightly from last year because of tribal adjustments, Swanson said.
Bear seasons are set by bear management unit, with a quota of licenses available for each BMU. Michigan has 10 BMUs, with the majority of bear licenses available in the Upper Peninsula, where the majority of the black bear population is found. All successful hunters must register at a bear check station within 72 hours of a kill.
“We estimate the adult bear population in the UP to be approximately 9,700 individuals and the Lower Peninsula to be about 2,000 bears,” Swanson said. “Because of the population differences, a majority of the harvested bear come from the Upper Peninsula.”
At the west end of the Upper Peninsula, bear numbers appeared to be in good shape.
“Everyone seemed pretty happy and the guys running dogs said they were finding lots of bears,” said Patty Paavola of Kurt’s Korner, a bear registration station in Pelkie in Baraga County. “We didn’t hear any complaints about the weather or anything”
Paavola said the biggest bear they registered was a 440 pounder. They registered a total of 39 bears this fall, up nine from last year.
Down in Iron County, Gloria Luckey of Luckey’s Sport Shop in Iron River said she checked about the same number of bears as last year.
“I seemed to get a lot of smaller bears this year. Last year our average bear weighed about 250 pounds and this year they averaged around 140 to 150 pounds,” Luckey told MON. “Most of them were from bait hunters this year. I had very few dog hunters. They’re afraid to run their dogs in a lot of areas because of the wolves.
The harvest appeared to dip in some areas at the east end of the Upper Peninsula.
“We were down this year. Last year we checked 69, this year we just checked 39,” said Jamey McDonald, of McNeil’s Bar in Gould City, a bear check station in Mackinac County. “They (DNR) opened a couple new check stations and we figured hunters were taking their bears somewhere closer to where they were hunting. Overall, hunters did say they weren’t seeing as many bears as last year.”
There were similar reports from some areas of the northern Lower Peninsula.
“Our numbers were down this year. We checked 22 or 23 and last year we had over 30,” said Keith Peacock, of Adrian’s Sport Shop in Rogers City in Presque Isle County. “Hunters were just not finding the bears. It was pretty warm, especially early in the season.”
Swanson said he and his staff are tabulating the results of the season and would present their harvest recommendations for the 2017 and 2018 seasons at a bear forum, slated for 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 17, at the Little Bear East Arena, 275 Marquette St. in St. Ignace.
“I’ve been meeting with all the biologists and we may be looking at an increased harvest in some BMUs, especially in the northern Lower Peninsula,” Swanson said.