State licensed bear hunters registered 2,116 bruins during 2010 seasons compared to 2,026 in 2009, an increase of 90 bears, according to preliminary figures from the DNRE. Tribal hunters registered an additional 31 bears for 2010, which is identical to the tally from 2009.
The bear kill in the Upper Peninsula (UP) actually increased by 185 between 2009 and 2010 (1,778 compared to 1,593) and declined by 95 in the Lower Peninsula’s (LP) three bear management units (338 versus 433). A total of 10,357 bear licenses were available for UP BMUs in 2010 compared to 9,563 the year before, an increase of 794. The license quota for the LP was reduced by 525 from 2009 (1,385 versus 1,910).
Most of the license reduction occurred in the Red Oak BMU where 505 fewer tags were issued (1,195 compared to 1,700). The license quota was reduced by 10 for the Baldwin BMU (50 and 60) and the same amount in Gladwin (140 versus 150).
The 2010 bear harvest in the Red Oak BMU was actually down by about 100 animals from 2009, according to registration data. State licensed hunters registered 294 bears and another 12 were tallied by tribal hunters, for a total of 306. Hunters still had a 25 percent rate of success there. Registrations for that BMU totaled 404 during 2009; 386 by state and 18 by tribal hunters.
In spite of the fact 10 fewer bear licenses were issued for the Baldwin BMU, four more bears were bagged there during the recent hunt than a year ago (32 compared to 28), resulting in a 62 percent rate of success. In the Gladwin BMU, seven fewer bears were registered (13 versus 20), for nine percent success.
Only two state issued bear licenses were granted for Drummond Island during 2010 to allow that population to recover and both of those tags were filled with a bear of each sex. No tribal hunters registered a bear from the island in 2010.
Three separate hunts, with different permit quotas, were held in each of the UP’s remaining six BMUs. Based on the number of bears registered compared to the number of licenses issued, the Amasa BMU had the best success for each of those hunts. The average rate of success for all three hunts was 33 percent. Forty-seven percent of those who took part in the first hunt bagged bears (52), according to DNR data. Thirty-two percent of second hunt participants were successful (54) and 20 percent of third season hunters scored (72).
More tags are available for third hunts in each BMU due to lower success rates then than the first and second hunts. There were 360 bear licenses available in Amasa for the third hunt, for example, compared to 170 for the second and 110 for the first.
The first bear hunt begins on September 10 in the UP and hunting with hounds is not permitted the first five days. Daytime temperatures can sometimes be hot during the first days of the season, reducing bear activity at baits along with success. During 2010, temperatures were cool in the UP when bear season began, increasing the odds of success for those hunting then.
Bear hunters who had tags for the Newberry BMU experienced the next best success among UP hunters last fall, averaging 25 percent for all three hunts. Thirty-seven percent of those with first season tags connected (168) compared to 28 percent for the second hunt (154) and 11 percent on the third (179). There were 1,600 bear licenses issued for the third hunt in Newberry, 560 for the second hunt and 460 got the first hunt.
In spite of complaints from some veteran hunters that bear numbers are down in the Newberry BMU, registration data indicates the opposite. More bruins were bagged during each of the unit’s three hunts in 2010 than the year before and the majority of them were males. The kill increased by 22 bears during the first hunt, 41 in the second and 48 for the third. The tribal harvest went up to 12 from seven.
Sixty-two percent of the bears registered for Newberry last fall were males, which is normal. When more females than males are taken by hunters, as happened on Drummond Island in the past, there is reason for concern. What is probably happening in that unit as well as others, is that the bear population is distributed differently than it used to be based on changes in habitat and availability of food sources. Research has shown that black bears will move as much as 20 miles or more to take advantage of preferred foods.
An average of 23 percent of the permittees for the Bergland BMU during 2010 were successful during 2010. Forty-four percent scored in the first season, 18 percent during the second and nine percent connected on the third hunt.
Hunters in the Baraga BMU averaged 21 percent success, those who hunted the Gwinn BMU were almost 20 percent successful and it was 18 percent for the Carney Unit.
Sixty-one percent of the UP bear harvest in 2010 were males compared to 58 percent males in the LP.