Preliminary results: Bear harvest dipped

Marquette, Mich. — A total of 1,615 black bears were registered during 2016 bear seasons in Michigan, according to preliminary DNR figures. Tribal hunters claimed 52 of those bruins and state licensed hunters registered the remaining 1,563.

One hundred and three fewer bears were registered during 2016 than the 1,718 tagged by hunters in 2015. The issuance of fewer bear licenses was partly responsible for the reduced harvest. There were 55 fewer bear licenses issued by the state last year than (6,896) than in 2015 (6,951).

Reduced hunting pressure, both in terms of hunters and hunting effort, may have also played a role in the slight reduction in the bear kill from 2015. During 2014, 5,499 bear license holders actually hunted bear, which is 505 more than 2015, and they spent 37,250 days hunting. Even though fewer hunters spending less time afield during 2015 harvested more bears than 2014, a continued reduction of hunter numbers and effort could have been enough to result in a lower kill during 2016. Specifics about hunter numbers and effort from 2016 won’t be available from the DNR until later this year.

The number of bear licenses has steadily declined since 2012 to allow the bear population to increase. Bear license quotas statewide were dropped from 11,742 in 2011 to 7,991 for 2012.

In spite of that information, organized bear hunters have lobbied the DNR to continue reducing bear licenses. Only 7,906 state-issued tags were available during 2013 and 7,831 in 2014. Licenses numbers were dropped by about 1,000 more for 2015.

DNR data from the fawn survival study conducted in Menominee County between 2009 and 2011 in cooperation with Mississippi State University showed that bear numbers were still increasing there even when bear license numbers were between 11,000 and 12,000. DNR study coordinator Dean Beyer reports that there were an estimated 0.36 bear per square mile in the Menominee County study area during the summer of 2009, 0.39 per square mile in 2010 and 0.49 bear per square mile for 2011. With reduced bear license quotas since 2011, bear numbers should have continued to increase.

“Our bear estimates are based on a genetic mark-recapture estimator (hair snare technique),” Beyer stated.

Clumps of bear hair are collected from barbed wire surrounding a bait and a bear’s genetic makeup or DNA is extracted from those hairs. The collection of a second hair sample from the same bear is considered a recapture.

State licensed hunters registered 1,226 bruins in the Upper Peninsula and 337 in the Lower. Twenty of the bears from the tribal harvest came from the Red Oak and Baldwin Bear Management Units in the northern Lower and the remaining 32 were taken in the U.P., with 20 of those killed in the Newberry BMU.

The Baraga Unit posted the highest harvest among state licenses hunters at 314. The Newberry unit was second at 289 followed by Bergland at 187. The tally for the Gwinn BMU was 179, Amasa was 144,  and 112 for Carney. Two bruins were bagged on Drummond Island, one each with state and tribal licenses.

A total of 261 bears shot by state licensed hunters in the Red Oak unit. Baldwin accounted for 54 and Gladwin for 22.

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