Black bear are big omnivores that are socially and economically important. Other than bear hunters and those that have nuisance bears in their area, many people in the state of Michigan probably pay the native black bears little attention. But not the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) , as they recently developed a Statewide Bear Management Plan. The plan was finalized last year to address the long term management of Michigan’s black bear population.
The mission of the DNR’s black bear management program is to maintain a healthy black bear population, but also one that provides a balance of recreational opportunities for residents and at the same time minimizes conflicts with the growing human population within the state. To fulfill this mission, the Michigan DNR has established 6 strategic bear management goals:
Population – The first four management goals relate to the endemic black bear population.
- Maintain a viable bear population within habitats suitable for the species where socially acceptable. This goal attempts to balance bear population size with human population.
- Maintain bear abundance at levels compatible with land use, recreational opportunities, and the public’s acceptance capacity for bear. Keep enough for a viable population, but not too many so that numerous nuisance issues are created.
- Manage black bear habitat to provide for the long-term viability of the species. This involves habitat management and conservation of important food, cover, water, and space.
- Use hunting as the primary tool to help achieve population goals. This is the only economically viable way to regulate black bear numbers within an area.
Recreation – Relates to regulated hunting for Michigan black bear, but in addition to hunting the DNR seeks to provide bear-related recreational opportunities which recognize the aesthetic value of bear.
Education – The Michigan DNR wishes to promote education about bear, bear-related recreational activities, and how to minimize negative human-bear interactions.