Although it is still quite cold outside, Michigan’s wildlife knows the spring season is here (based on the increase of daylight hours) and is beginning to wake up from its winter hibernation. Bears are one of the animals starting to emerge from their dens.
Food and mating are the two drivers behind the increase of wildlife that Michigan residents may be seeing lately. Since bears typically mate in June or July, food is the primary cause for the increase in bear activity during the spring.
“At this time of year, bears are looking for food,” said DNR bear and furbearer specialist Adam Bump. “They are hungry after spending months in their dens, and while we might not think of bird feeders and trash cans as food sources, a hungry bear certainly may.”
Each spring, as bears leave their winter dens and resume daily activity, wildlife officials begin receiving calls about bear sightings and even the occasional bear damaging bird feeders, trash cans and grills.
Birdseed is especially attractive to bears because of its high fat content and easy accessibility. Once bird feeders are discovered, bears will keep coming back until the seed is gone or the feeders have been removed.
“The majority of complaints we receive about nuisance bears in the spring involve a food source. The easiest thing people can do to avoid creating a problem is to temporarily take in their bird feeders and store other attractants, like grills, trash cans and pet food, in a garage or storage shed,” Bump said. “Once the woods green up, bears tend to move on to find more natural sources of food, as long as they haven’t become habituated to the birdseed or garbage cans.”
Bears that are rewarded with food each time they visit a yard can become habituated to these food sources unintentionally provided by people. This can create an unsafe situation for the bear and become a nuisance for landowners if a bear continuously visits their yard during the day and repeatedly destroys private property in search of food.
DNR Wildlife Division staff members are unable to respond directly to each nuisance bear complaint, and instead ask that landowners do their part to help reduce potential food sources in their yards first before calling for further assistance. The trapping of nuisance bears is only authorized by DNR wildlife officials in cases of significant property damage or threats to human safety when other techniques have failed.
Anyone who is experiencing problems with nuisance bears and has taken the appropriate action to remove food sources for a period of two to three weeks, but has not seen results, should contact the nearest DNR office and speak with a wildlife biologist or technician for further assistance.
For more information, go to www.michigan.gov/bear.