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DNR says black bear spotted near DeWitt Township not a public safety concern

Pete Nuij
A black bear pictured in British Columbia, Canada in August of 2020.

Officials with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources say a black bear spotted near DeWitt Township poses little threat to the community.

The bear was last reported on Wednesday, June 8th, west of DeWitt. The DNR says the bear appears to be a young male exploring a new area, but that it should return in a couple of weeks to its home up north. Michigan DNR Wildlife Outreach Coordinator Rachel Leightner said there are no public safety concerns at this time.

“All the reports that we’ve received of this bear, it is still very much afraid of people, it’s fleeing when people are in the area,” Leightner said. “We’ve received no reports of it acting aggressively towards pets or people.”

Leightner said the bear's first instinct when interacting with people is to flee. To keep yourself safe if you happen to come across the bear is by making loud noises like clapping your hands and then slowly backing away from the bear.

“What this does is it gives the bear plenty of space to flee. What you don’t want is for the bear to feel like it’s been trapped,” she said.

Black bears entering fewer rural areas is becoming more common, Leightner said.

“Ten years ago it might have been really unusual to see black bears in mid-Michigan or moving into southern Michigan, but the northern lower has had great success in growing their bear population,” she said.

In recent years, a trend of black bears coming into the Lansing, Saginaw, and Grand Rapids areas has increased, Leightner said.

A reason for this movement of bears coming into urban areas is a supply of supplemental food sources, she said.

“In our backyards, we might not think we have any food out for a bear but we could have birdfeeders and pet foods,” Leightner said. “Even things like grills and patio furniture that have food debris on them could attract bears.”

In a Facebook post, DeWitt Charter Township said people are encouraged to take down their bird feeders and store their garbage inside. They don’t want the bear accustomed to finding easy food sources near homes.

Genevieve’s story is brought to you as part of a partnership between WKAR and Michigan State University's Knight Center for Environmental Journalism.

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