2012-2013 Bear Quotas Up for Debate

The Michigan Natural Resources Commission (NRC) saw a lively discussion of bear quotas and data at their March meeting in Lansing last week. The DNR Bear and Furbearer Specialist Adam Bump presented a thorough look (bear presentation starts on page 39 of PDF) of the last decade’s data on estimated bear harvest, hunting success on both private and public lands, number of hunters and hunting effort. Dr. Scott Winterstein of Michigan State University also provided his third-party evaluation of the model and data used to estimate bear populations

Another meeting in the UP is scheduled for March 31 in Marquette at Northern Michigan University, which will provide the background presentation and answer questions from the public.

Upper Peninsula West and East Eco-Regions

An analysis of stakeholders shows that many attendees of the Bear User Group meetings, hound hunting organizations, and some individual hunters support an increase bear numbers (done through a reduction in bear hunting permits); however some deer hunters, some bear hunters and guides, and the Western UP Citizen’s Advisory Council would prefer no change or even fewer bears (more bear licenses).

So what does the biological data say? Initially, the DNR thought the bear population was stable in the West UP and may be increasing in the East UP. However new research data just released 2 days before the NRC meeting says otherwise. In the UP, the DNR uses Tetracycline capture-mark-recapture (CMR) estimates and the new trend line shows that the UP bear population is in decline in both the east and west regions.

Now, among the regulation options presented to the NRC for discussion, only Option 1 would stabilize this decline. Option 1 would reduce available licenses by about 30 percent and add one year in just a few hunt periods to the time needed to accumulate enough bear preference points for a license. Option 2 and 3 would still contribute to the decline in population at varying rates over the next 5 years. Many hunters in the audience testified that they could live with Option 1, but some suggested even more aggressive action to decrease permits and increase bear numbers. Some NRC Commissioners seem concerned with the reduction in recreational opportunity.

Northern Lower Peninsula Eco-Region

In the NLP it is a different story, where the population is in a slight decline and the goal is to stabilize it. All the alternatives allow the bear population to reduce slightly (5-10%) before stabilizing it over the next 4 years. To do this, a small increase in licenses would be available for the Baldwin Unit (+20) and a small decrease in licenses would be made for Gladwin (-30). Where the 3 regulation Options differ is how they handle the Red Oak Unit. In an amazing feat of near unanimity from hunters, all of the individuals testifying during the public comment session at the NRC supported Option 3. This option would reduce Red Oak licenses by 30% for 2012, and then reduce them by another 10% each year for the next 3 years.

These bear regulations are up for action at the next NRC meeting on April 5 in Lansing.

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  • Ted

    Where are the experts getting their data from? Bear sightings in the Black River, Michigan are way up. Hunting pressure and “cabin” development is way down. I am sure we are going to here of “nuisance” Bears in Alcona county this year.

    • Ted

      My neighbor reports a Sow with cubs spotted south of the Black River boat launch this past week. I know of another Sow that had cubs last year. She was spotted several times near Alcona Rd west of Lakeshore.
      As the DNR does not allow any “fuelwood” cutting on the state lands in this area the habitat is just prime for cover and concealment for Bruins. Just talk with the folks who work on the railroad system and they will tell you Bears, Wolves are a common sighting. Oh yea, did I mention the Cougar sighting (confirmed by 3 separate individuals) in the same area 4 years ago.

  • Joe

    I agree with Ted. I have seen more bears in southern Alcona county in 2012 then in any past year. Bears were still active during the 2011 rifle deer season.

  • Bob Doctor

    Reporting from Alcona co. We have more bear than deer. Some one in the DNR cannot count if they believe the bear numbers are down in Red Oaks unit of this county. The question is, why not make Alcona and several other counties in that area a separate unit outside the remainder of Red Oaks?? The Red Oaks unit is far too large to manage as one unit!! If the DNR can make a separate unit, such as Baldwn and Gladwin, why not one for the Alcona area. I live on the west side of the state and I agree, the bear numbers are far less than the east side of the state, so change the Red Oaks unit into several separate units.

  • Amy Trotter

    Another meeting in the UP is scheduled for March 31 in Marquette at Northern Michigan University, which will provide the background presentation and answer questions from the public. http://content.govdelivery.com/bulletins/gd/MIDNR-345825

  • Retom43

    I own and have hunted my property, Yes Deer Club in Alcona County for 25 years. I have hunted bear when ever I had the opprounity and have monitored the bear activity on my property. I believe that my area does not show a decline in bear population but an increase unlike other areas of Red Oak. I feel that our area is unique in its bear population and growth. Therefore, our area should be a separate management unit and evaluated separate from Red Oak and regulations determined on what is actually occurring in our section in Michigan.

  • Uncled

    I live in the Northwest corner of Iosco County and I have had a good size sow on my deck but I still agree with the reductions in the Red Oak I also think that the DNR needs to find a way to inforce a minimum size of 200# or 250# I hate to see people bragging about a 150# cub as a big bear.