At home or in the forest, bear spotting and encounters are more likely to occur in the spring and summer months, while bears forage for food. Most wild animals are generally afraid of people and will leave if they are aware of your presence.
If you come across a bear in your yard or on a trail, stay calm and be BART SMART:
S. – Man up. Don’t run and don’t play dead.
M. – Make loud noises and go back slowly.
A – Always provide the bear with a clear, unobstructed escape route.
R. – Bears rarely attack, when they do, they fight back.
T. – Treat bears with respect and watch them from a distance.
“Every year we receive numerous reports of bears eating from birdhouses, bins, grills and campsites,” said Cody Norton, large carnivore specialist for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources. “Making food available to bears is problematic for the bear and the community. Once a bear finds a source of food, it will keep returning in search of food, and while you love to see the bear, your neighbor may not. Dependent on human sources of food, bears often encounter humans, thereby losing their natural fear of humans. “
Many of the bear conflicts reported annually come from urban and residential communities in northern Michigan, where there are numerous homes with bird feeders and accessible bins and pet food. If you live in a shared apartment, publish Bear’s SMART brochure throughout the neighborhood to avoid bear conflict.
Additionally, chickens, apiaries, and other small animals can attract a bear’s attention. Install an electric fence or store it in an enclosed space for the safety of stables and beehives. For instructions and a list of materials for building an electric fence, see How To Protect Your Beehives From Black Bears.
“Removing food sources and knowing what to do when encountering bears is the best way to avoid conflict and to live with bears,” said Norton. “Those of us who live and recreate in the bear realm share a responsibility to avoid activities that create potential bear problems.”
For more information on dealing with wildlife conflicts, please visit Michigan.gov/Wildlife.