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Bear season is around the corner, but enforcement is ‘round the clock

Teresa Homsi
Conservation officer William Kinney poses with his truck in Benzie County July 26.

Conservation officer William Kinney treks through the woods on a rainy summer day, in search of illegal activity.

Kinney said he previously found bear bait in this area, prior to the acceptable bear-baiting season, along with an illegal tree stand on state forest land.

He's on the lookout for signs of humans like bent ferns and footprints.

“[In environmental enforcement], we talk about intent," Kinney said. "Just like these people right now are doing with these bear baits, they're doing it intentionally to give themselves an advantage, so we don't have much tolerance for that.”

A lot of what Kinney does involves watching and waiting. Looking for things out of place – and then trying to figure out who’s responsible.

Teresa Homsi
Conservation officers trek through state forest in search of evidence of illegal activity July 26.

Kinney said he sometimes spend months investigating a case, which can range from littering to poaching.

“When you do something that takes more of that species, you're not taking it from me, the DNR, the Wildlife Division - you're taking it from the rest of the people in Michigan, who utilize those resources," Kinney said.

He said every season brings different enforcement challenges like boaters having the appropriate number of lifejackets and anglers with the proper fishing licenses – and bear season is no different.

The first round of bear season begins Sept. 6 in the Upper Peninsula and Sept. 9 in the Northern Lower Peninsula.

Editor's note: In the interest of transparency, 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.
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