DNR seeking bear den locations from the public

ALPENA — As the estimated 600,000 deer hunters embark this fall to hunting locations across the state, Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials hope they spot a few bear dens.

This is especially true in the northern Lower Peninsula where DNR biologists are looking for bear dens to study as possible candidates for radio collar tracking, according to biologist Katie Keen.

She said hunters are urged to contact the DNR with location information for the long-running program.

“What is neat is when we are able to collar wild animals we’re able to see what they do and where they travel and we’re also able to visit them again,” she said. “We can learn a lot with this specific bear management program using both air and ground tracking equipment.”

She said the DNR is tracking female bears that will either have newborn bear cubs or yearling cubs that stay with the mother for an additional year after their first year after birth.

Keen said hunters are asked to keep an eye out for bear dens because this is the time of year bears will begin to bed down, and additionally hunters will go into areas seeking deer where the public typically will not venture.

“We have enough to keep the program moving. At this point we have six females that are collared,” she said.

The bears are spread out across northern Michigan. She said although they are collared hunters still can kill the animals during bear hunting season.

She said there are a few bears within the Alpena, Presque Isle, Alcona and Montmorency counties area.

Keen also wanted members of the hunting community to know that if they find a den and report it is very helpful to have very detailed information concerning the site of the den.

She said people should take pictures of the location and try to get a GPS location so researchers can find the location again.

Biologist Mark Boersen is in charge of going to the den locations and checking the animals. Keen said he can be contacted at 275-5151 or boersenm@michigan.gov with specific location information.

According to DNR officials, bears that are selected will be sedated by a wildlife biologist and fitted with collars and ear tags. A small nonfunctional tooth will be collected to determine each bear’s age and to provide a DNA sample. Upon completion of the short procedure, biologists will carefully return the bear to its den, where it will sleep through the remainder of the winter months.

DNR officials also want to remind the public that it is illegal to disturb a bear den or disturb, harm or molest a bear in its den.

Jason Ogden can be reached via email at jogden@thealpenanews.com or by phone at 358-5693. Follow Jason on Twitter @jo_alpenanews.