DNR decreases bear tags

Michigan wildlife regulators have set the number of black bear hunting tags for the next two years, resulting in a decrease in available licenses. The Michigan Natural Resources Commission has voted to establish the number of kill tags for hunters participating in the annual bear hunt lottery. The state will sell several hundred fewer licenses than last year. However, wildlife officials expect the number of bears killed in the seasonal hunt to increase.

Cody Norton, the large carnivore specialist for the state Department of Natural Resources, has described the region as having a “robust” bear population with relatively high density. This equates to about one bear for every two square miles, which is a phenomenal rate.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources uses a statistical model to calculate the hunting license quota based on factors such as past hunter success rates, bear population estimates, bear-related nuisance complaints, and other relevant data. The DNR estimates these changes will lead to 19 more bears being killed by hunters in the Lower Peninsula than last year, and 11 more bears in the Upper Peninsula than during last year’s hunt. The goal is for hunters to take 1,724 bears statewide.

In addition to updating license quotas, there were several other changes in the bear regulations. The use of “stupefying substances” in bear baiting, such as melatonin, is now prohibited because it creates an unfair advantage for the hunter. The DNR officials believe that a small number of hunters may be attempting to use such substances, which does not follow fair chase principles. Other regulation changes include implementing a new wanton waste rule for hunters and making the definition of off-limit bear cubs based on size rather than age, aligning with existing bear cub regulations in Wisconsin.

While Michigan has a historic high population of bears, the state aims to increase the Upper Peninsula bear numbers at a slower rate and slow down and stabilize the species’ population growth in Lower Michigan.

Available tags for bear hunts will decrease for the next two years.