Michigan's black bear population is on the rise and creeping south. In an interview with WOOD TV, Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) bear specialist Cody Norton stated that there has been a 70% increase in the predator population over the last decade...in the Lower Peninsula alone.

Related: CONFIRMED COUGAR SIGHTINGS: Photos of Michigan's Apex Predator

This growth was managed, in part, by the DNR limiting the number of bear hunting tags dramatically in 2011. At the time, the estimated population was between 9,000 and 11,000 statewide. That number has grown dramatically in the Upper Peninsula while numbers in the Northern Lower Peninsula have exploded.

Michigan's Bear Population is Growing, Along With Annual Hunt

Michigan's Upper Peninsula's estimated bear population in 2022 was around 10,700, while the Lower Peninsula numbers were 2,200 and GROWING. While residents of the UP have been dealing with Michigan's largest predator for a while, Lower Peninsula suburbs are learning how to cohabitate with black bears.

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Bear nuisance calls have been rising along with their numbers, with most coming from heavily populated areas like Traverse City, Gaylord, Houghton, and Sault Ste. Marie, and usually involves garbage cans and bird feeder raids. Balancing that interaction is partially managed through Michigan's Annual Bear Hunt.

Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Michigan Department of Natural Resources

Michigan bear hunting tags are distributed via point system drawing, meaning that hunters who aren't selected for a tag accumulate points that give them an advantage for the next season. Once a hunter is selected, their points are reset to zero.

Related: Deer Hunting, IN DETROIT? Michigan's URBAN ARCHERY SEASON

In 2023, 601,100 hunters applied for a Michigan black bear hunting tag, with 6,856 lucky hunters getting drawn. Here's a look at how they faired, thanks to OutdoorNews.com:

Hunters registered a total of 1,905 black bears in Michigan during 2023 seasons, according to preliminary figures from the DNR. That total is down 68 animals from last year, but almost identical to the 1,907 bruins checked during 2021.  State licensed hunters accounted for 1,844 of the total harvest this year and 61 were tagged by tribal members.

According to the DNR, 60,100 hunters applied for a bear tag, with 6,586 allocated, and a successful hunting rate of 27% in 2023. Expect an increase in the number of tags for 2024, as the population continues to rise along with bear nuisance calls.

CONFIRMED COUGAR SIGHTINGS: 43 Photos of Michigan's Apex Predator

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) works with landowners and other agencies to track cougars in the state. Here's a look at confirmed photos of Michigan cougar sightings.

Gallery Credit: Scott Clow