House Bill 5226: Crop Damage Permits Extended to Bear

The DNR has developed and hunters endorsed the "Problem Bear Guidelines" in an attempt to minimize conflict between bears and humans in Michigan. This document, part of the larger Michigan Bear Management Plan, lays out recommendations and guidelines on how to prevent problems as well as how problem animals should be handled.
The first guideline states that “Landowners shall be encouraged to harvest problem animals during the open season under the authority of a hunting license or invite hunters to their lands during the open season to help resolve conflicts.”
However last week, Representative Ed McBroom and many co-sponsors introduced House Bill 5226. This bill would expand on the DNR's authority to issue wildlife permits to take animals to prevent or control damage and nuisance.
HB 5226 would allow the DNR to issue out of season bear crop damage permits to landowners that could be used by a hunter licensed to take a bear during that calendar year. This means that a bear could be taken before or after the season on that landowner’s property. However, if the licensed bear hunter takes a bear under this subdivision, they cannot take another bear under a bear hunting license issued that calendar year.
Currently, Wisconsin has an agricultural damage shooting permit program: The Wildlife Damage and Abatement Claims Program (WDACP).  Wisconsin farmers who receive agricultural damage shooting permits are required to fill their tags by specific deadlines. They have the option to provide some of their tags to hunters who would like to help them shoot deer, bear, turkeys or geese that are damaging their crops. These permits are valid both inside and outside of the regular hunting seasons.. Farmers are not required to allow hunters to use their damage tags.
MUCC is still formulating our position on this bill and has some questions that must be addressed by the Michigan DNR, while they develop their bill analysis. Generally, we'd like to know:
  • if bear crop damage has been increasing on the landscape?
  • what crops are being affected and what time of the year?
  • is the DNR receiving official complaints to their biologists or is this hearsay?
  • will shooting bears out of season have any significant unintended impacts to the population?
What do you think?

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