DNR: Black bears are coming out of hibernation

Remove food sources like bird feeders to avoid conflicts with black bears. (Courtesy/Michigan DNR)

Remove food sources like bird feeders to avoid conflicts with black bears. (Courtesy/Michigan DNR)

It’s that time of year again. Black bears are coming out of hibernation to get food, and young bears are looking for new homes.

People tend to spot more black bears in the spring, said Rachel Leightner, wildlife outreach coordinator with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. They’re attracted to high calorie meals like bird feed and garbage left outside.

There has been an increase in observations of bears over the last few years, she said. It could be because more black bears are being born or because of an increase in technology.

“Most people have some kind of home security system or Ring camera that allows them to catch wildlife observations on camera,” she said. “(People) never knew there was a bear that moved through (their) yard at 2 p.m. on a Wednesday, and that goes the same with the pandemic.”

Black bears are attracted to beehives and chicken coops. Farmers should follow the DNR's instructions at tinyurl.com/BearproofHives to build electric fences, Leightner said.

“Bears can be very smart, so you do still have to be vigilant even if you put an electric fence up,” she said.

Tall grass can touch the electric fence and reduce its charge, which is enough for a bear to climb or break through, she said. It takes consideration and planning to outsmart a bear.

“Think about how a bear might move across the land. Maybe don’t put your chicken coop or beehive in the middle of the woods next to an old blueberry patch where that might attract a bear naturally,” Leightner said.

As of Tuesday, May 24, Leightner said the DNR has not received any reports of bear sightings in Mecosta County.

If you see a bear, a DNR brochure recommends SMART:

  • S – Stand your ground. DO NOT run or play dead
  • M – Make loud noises, and back away slowly.
  • A – Always provide a clear, unobstructed escape route for the bear.
  • R – Rarely do bears attack. If they do, fight back.
  • T – Treat bears with respect and observe them from a distance.

For more information about bears and other wildlife, visit michigan.gov/wildlife.