DNR offers advise to individuals making complaints about bears

BALDWIN — Complaints of bear sightings and damage done to bird feeders and other sources of food for them are starting to come to the Department of Natural Resources, one area DNR wildlife biologist reports.

Pete Kailing, who covers three counties in west-central Michigan for the DNR, noted that complaints concerning bears invading residential areas in search of food means residents need to make sure they don’t entice the animals to stay within the vicinity.

“Help the bear by scaring him away and keeping your bird food, garbage and pet food inside,” Kailing said.

“At this time of year, bears are looking for food,” Adam Bump, bear and furbearer specialist for the Department of Natural Resources, said in a statement. “They are hungry after spending months in their dens. While we might not think of bird feeders and trash cans as food sources, a hungry bear certainly may.”

It’s not uncommon for some area residents to spot bears.

“They’re becoming more common,” Kailing said. “To keep bears safe and the people safe, don’t feed them. A fed bear is a dead bear. If they get too comfortable with eating people food, we either have to euthanize them or try to move them. Relocating doesn’t solve the problem often, they come right back or become a problem somewhere else.”

Residents, who spot bears are encouraged to make “a loud noise to try and spook them away,” Kailing said. “Don’t tolerate the bear close to your house. If the bear is consistently coming to your yard after you’ve removed all food items, then call my office.”

Kailing said he has moved his office from Big Rapids to Paris in the old fish hatchery building off of Northland Drive, now owned by the Mecosta County Parks Department.

“If you see a bear at close range, don’t turn and run,” Kailing said. “Make noise so the bear knows you’re there. Make yourself visible. Raise your arms so you look big, back away and keep an eye on the bear and yell at him.”

It’s very unlikely, he added, that the bear will attack humans.

“These bears are terrified of people and just want to get away,” he said. “But at night, they’re hungry and sometimes the big male bears aren’t too afraid because they have no natural predators. But you need to let the bear know they’re not welcome.”