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Michigan DNR says black bear populations are growing

black bear
Larry&Sharon Rosenkoetter
US Forest Service

In 2012, state officials were concerned to see the black bear population dwindling. As a response, the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) restricted bear hunting in hopes of a recovery.

Now, a decade later, they’re seeing results. Black bear numbers have increased by 70% in the lower peninsula and 25% in the upper peninsula since 2012.

Cody Norton is a large carnivore specialist with the Michigan DNR. He said bears are an important part of a healthy, functioning ecosystem.

“Our target has revolved around what the population is doing," Norton said. "We have been trying to stabilize the population in the northern lower for quite some time. We backed off on harvest and saw that population grow very rapidly.”

Norton said it's rare for bears to harm people. If people come across a bear, he said they should stand their ground, make themselves appear larger, and back away slowly.

The Michigan DNR estimates show there’s around 12,000 black bears across the state. Black bear hunting is still allowed in Michigan, with the appropriate license.

Editor's note: In the interest of transparency we note the Michigan DNR is a financial supporter of WCMU.

Teresa Homsi is an environmental reporter and Report for America Corps Member based in northern Michigan for WCMU. She covers rural environmental issues, focused on contamination, conservation, and climate change.