LANSING—Michigan’s bear hunting community is asking the Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to consider banning the use of solid chocolate in bear baits. Chocolate contains theobromine, which can be toxic to bears and other wildlife in high quantities.Read more
Michigan's 2015 black bear hunting season came to an end in October, and we now have the preliminary registration results. Statewide 1,625 bears were harvested by state-licensed hunters in 2015 (which does not include tribal harvest of another 71 bears), meaning bear harvest increased about 12% since 2014 as success rates climbed yet again. However, Michigan's current harvest level remains about 30% below the peak harvest occurring in 2006 of 2,400 bears. Regulations and quotas are on stabilized 2-year cycles, so no changes are supposed to be made until 2017. But that didn't stop many bear hunters and the DNR, at the most recent Bear Forum meeting in St. Ignace, from proposing lots of ideas on how to ensure a stable to growing bear population in the face of higher success rates and address other issues regarding commercial guiding and bait.
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Bills to crack down on poachers have taken the next step forward in the state Senate after being unanimously reported out of the Committee on Outdoor Recreation and Tourism yesterday.
Senate Bills 244, 245 and 246 are a package which raise restitution and hunting licence suspension penalties on elk, moose, bear, turkey, waterfowl and eagles. The legislation was introduced by Senators Phil Pavlov (R-St. Clair) and Dale Zorn (R-Monroe), and builds upon legislation passed last year to increase poaching penalties on white-tailed deer. Both packages began as Michigan United Conservation Clubs resolutions introduced by Jim Pryce of Tri-County Sportsmen's Club (testifying with fellow MUCC member Bill Houston of the Montmorency County Conservation Club in the video below):
Watch this video of MUCC members Bill Houston and Jim Pryce testifying in support of stronger poaching penalties at the Senate Committee on Outdoor Recreation and Tourism last week! Thank you to Senators Pavlov and Zorn for introducing this legislation!
Posted by Michigan United Conservation Clubs on Monday, April 27, 2015
The new package increases the restitution penalty for elk to $5,000 for any elk, and an additional $250 per point for an elk with 8 to 10 points (4x4 to 5x5), and an additional $500 per point for an elk with 11 or more points. Additionally, someone who poaches an elk will lose their hunting license - for any species - for 15 years the first time, and if they poach a second time, they will lose their hunting license for a lifetime!
MUCC members Bill Houston and Jim Pryce testifying in support of the anti-poaching bills at the first committee hearing.
The same penalties apply for poaching moose, except that in addition to the $5,000 base restitution, there is an additional $5,000 for any antlered moose. There is also a $3,500 restitution for bear, $1,500 for an eagle, an additional $1,000 for a bearded turkey (on top of the base $1,500 restitution) and $250-500 for waterfowl, and $500 per waterfowl for subsequent conviction.
It's important to remember that this push to crack down on poachers is coming from the hunting community, not from anti-hunters. When animals are taken outside of the regulations established by state wildlife biologists, it jeopardizes the North American Model of Conservation that we have to make sure that there is game to hunt without jeopardizing the wildlife populations of game species. Also, poaching steals from legal hunters who have purchased the license, which supports wildlife conservation. Poaching is not hunting, but the general public doesn't always make that distinction, so in addition to jeopardizing our conservation system, game populations, stealing from legal hunters and shirking the responsibility to take care of the resource, poaching also jeopardizes hunting rights.
We're very grateful to Senators Pavlov and Zorn for introducing this legislation. It will now go before the full Senate.
A proposed Wildlife Conservation Order, driven by changes to state law, would give Michigan residents an easier option to possess deer
Photo: Brian Allen/Corbis
and certain other wild game species that were killed during a collision with a motor vehicle. Prior to the enactment of Public Act 255 of 2014, the regulations and permitting requirements for the taking of salvaged wildlife remains were both unclear and time consuming for the motorist and the DNR or local law enforcement. The newly enacted law is designed to provide clarity and speed up the permitting process. Here’s what you need to know.
How is the law different now?
Prior to this year’s legislation, motorists with a valid hunting license could possess certain game killed during a collision with a vehicle by obtaining a salvage tag from local law enforcement or DNR officials. This required officers to personally inspect the collision and determine if a salvage tag is warranted. This procedure took time away from properly preparing the carcass either for transportation or consumption.
Under the new law, Michigan legislators have decided that motorists may keep certain salvaged wildlife remains by making either a phone call or obtaining a salvage tag. In all instances, a written record of where and when the animal was harvested is required of the driver. This new process streamlines the entire ordeal, making the possession of salvaged wildlife remains more convenient and worthwhile for motorists.
What species am I allowed to keep?
The new procedures were designed to be applied toward bear or deer, as well as other small game or furbearing animals (coyote, beaver, raccoon, squirrels, woodchucks, rabbits, and others) not mentioned below.
What species am I not allowed to keep?
The new regulations do not apply to:
- Certain big game: cub bear, elk, moose, spotted fawn deer, wild turkey, wolf
- Certain small game and furbearing animals: badger, bobcat, fisher, marten, otter
- Waterfowl and migratory birds: brant, coot, crow, duck, Florida gallinule, goose, snipe, sora rail, Virginia rail, or woodcock.
- Bear (excluding cub bear): Call your local law enforcement agency or the Department of Natural Resources and inform them of your intent to possess the salvaged animal remains. When they arrive to investigate the collision, they will be able to issue you a free permit for your animal that must stay with the remains until the animal and its parts are consumed, composted or no longer possessed by any individual.
Deer: You now have three options:
- obtain a free salvage tag from the DNR or local law enforcement as described above,
- notify the Department of Natural Resources or a local law enforcement agency by phone or website, or
- report your intent to possess the remains when making the call to 9-1-1 (if the collision warrants an emergency call).
- Certain small game and furbearing animals (not excluded above): You must also prepare a written record with the following information – date, time and location where the animal was obtained, your name, address, date of birth and driver’s license number, the type of game, and what you intend to use it for.
Yes, for bear you need to obtain a free salvage tag from the DNR. For deer, it is no longer necessary to obtain a salvage tag if you report it as described above and maintain a written record.
Who has first priority over the salvaged animal remains?
The driver of the vehicle has first priority to keep the animal remains. If the driver is not interested, any witnesses, bystanders or officials can lay claim to the remains.
Where can I find out more?
The Natural Resources Commission (NRC) will be discussing this issue and many others at their monthly meeting on October 9, 2014 in Cadillac, Michigan. Public is welcome! You can find NRC meeting agendas, calendars, and more information by clicking HERE.
New this year, Pure Michigan Hunt winners can now transfer one or all of their licenses to another eligible hunter.
This will allow hunters, their friends and family members to buy as many Pure Michigan Hunt applications as they want for both themselves and others. Instead of needing to know other hunters' driver’s license numbers, addresses and birthdates to apply on their behalf, Pure Michigan Hunt winners now have the ability to give one or more of their licenses away to whomever they choose or keep all of the licenses for themselves.
If you know of someone who has been applying for an elk license for many years and you are the Pure Michigan Hunt winner, you may give that elk tag to that person. Especially, since it is the 30th anniversary of the Michigan elk hunt.
From March 1 to December 31 every year, applicants may apply as many times as they would like for $5 (per application). Each entry puts the applicant's name in the Pure Michigan Hunt drawing, in which three winners are selected and announced in January. These three lucky hunters win all hunting licenses that cannot be purchased over the counter (elk, bear, spring and fall turkey, and antler-less deer) and first pick on opening morning at any managed waterfowl hunt area. Winners also receive a prize package valued at more than $4,000.
Applying for the Pure Michigan Hunt is one more way hunters and non-hunters can support conservation efforts. Thus far, Pure Michigan Hunt application sales have generated more than $350,000 for wildlife habitat management and restoration in Michigan, including wildlife planting and opening maintenance, prescribed burns, duck and goose banding, and other efforts.
Click HERE to learn more, to apply and to view the entire hunter’s prize package donated by Michigan organizations and businesses.
- Allow the DNR to issue out of season bear crop damage permits to landowners;
- Allow the tag to be used by a hunter licensed to take a bear during that calendar year;
- A hunter must use the allocated bear license in the same BMU for crop damage;
- No more than 5% crop damage permits per BMU zone, with at least one per.
- Successful participant must register the bear with a DNR field office within 72 hours;
- The DNR would have 4 days to respond to the request, ten days to make a determination, and;
- Require the DNR to report to the Legislature within 3 years, how it works, and suggest any modifications.
Bear revisions are not formally up for review until 2015, but the department recommends adjusting license quotas for the Red Oak Bear Management Unit (BMU) in order to be consistent with the gradual step down of licenses discussed in 2012. MUCC and other groups have asked the DNR to consider using updated hunter success rates to recalculate the proposed quotas.
Northern Lower Peninsula 2014 Recommendations:
- 675 licenses would be issued in the Red Oak BMU, a decrease of 75 from the 2013 totals. The department expects economic impact would be minimal
- 70 license for the Baldwin BMU (No Change in license quotas)
- 110 Licenses for the Gladwin BMU (No Change in license quotas)
Upper Peninsula 2014 Recommendations:
The Department recommends retaining licenses at 2012 levels for the entire U.P. for 2014. Trend goals seem to be on target and the department believes that a slight reduction in licenses is unlikely to impact the bear populations. License quotas, desired harvest, and goals will be re-evaluated in 2015.
Proposed License Quotas for the U.P. are as follows: (Total of 6,976 for the UP) (No Change)
- Amasa: 505 total
- Baraga: 1,620 total
- Bergland: 1,265 total
- Carney: 815
- Drummond: 1
- Gwinn: 1,250
- Newberry: 1,520
The NRC will amend or approve this order at their April 10, 2014 meeting in Lansing.
Another meeting in the UP is scheduled for March 31 in Marquette at Northern Michigan University, which will provide the background presentation and answer questions from the public.
Upper Peninsula West and East Eco-Regions
An analysis of stakeholders shows that many attendees of the Bear User Group meetings, hound hunting organizations, and some individual hunters support an increase bear numbers (done through a reduction in bear hunting permits); however some deer hunters, some bear hunters and guides, and the Western UP Citizen's Advisory Council would prefer no change or even fewer bears (more bear licenses).
So what does the biological data say? Initially, the DNR thought the bear population was stable in the West UP and may be increasing in the East UP. However new research data just released 2 days before the NRC meeting says otherwise. In the UP, the DNR uses Tetracycline capture-mark-recapture (CMR) estimates and the new trend line shows that the UP bear population is in decline in both the east and west regions.
Now, among the regulation options presented to the NRC for discussion, only Option 1 would stabilize this decline. Option 1 would reduce available licenses by about 30 percent and add one year in just a few hunt periods to the time needed to accumulate enough bear preference points for a license. Option 2 and 3 would still contribute to the decline in population at varying rates over the next 5 years. Many hunters in the audience testified that they could live with Option 1, but some suggested even more aggressive action to decrease permits and increase bear numbers. Some NRC Commissioners seem concerned with the reduction in recreational opportunity.
Northern Lower Peninsula Eco-Region
In the NLP it is a different story, where the population is in a slight decline and the goal is to stabilize it. All the alternatives allow the bear population to reduce slightly (5-10%) before stabilizing it over the next 4 years. To do this, a small increase in licenses would be available for the Baldwin Unit (+20) and a small decrease in licenses would be made for Gladwin (-30). Where the 3 regulation Options differ is how they handle the Red Oak Unit. In an amazing feat of near unanimity from hunters, all of the individuals testifying during the public comment session at the NRC supported Option 3. This option would reduce Red Oak licenses by 30% for 2012, and then reduce them by another 10% each year for the next 3 years.
These bear regulations are up for action at the next NRC meeting on April 5 in Lansing.
In October of 2010, a black bear cub was found dead on a bait pile by a hunter. Upon necropsy of that animal, it was determined that the cub died from theobromine poisoning as a result of ingesting chocolate. This is the first and only evidence that current bear baiting practices in Michigan could cause mortality in bears. While there is no evidence that mortality due to chocolate ingestion is causing a population level impact in bears, MUCC is recommending that hunters should limit their use of chocolate in bear baits.
In March 2011, the DNR Wildlife Division recommended that chocolate be removed from the items that can be lawfully used for baiting bears. The Michigan Bear Hunters Association, Michigan Hunting Dog Federation, and MUCC agreed that this restriction wasn’t necessary at this time and agreed to assist in educating hunters about limiting chocolate as a component in bear baits. We ask for your help as well to help spread the word.
The important point for bear hunters is that chocolate, in large enough quantities, can cause sickness and even death in bears, as well as dogs. Hunters should be aware that darker chocolates such as baker’s chocolate are more dangerous, whereas milk chocolate is less dangerous. Extra care should be taken to avoid all dark chocolates and limit the use of milk chocolate. Given the numerous other options for use in bear baits, hunters should be encouraged to consider using alternative items when baiting for bears. These alternative baiting materials are just as effective as chocolate yet pose little risk to bears and other wildlife.
To prevent future bear mortality due to chocolate and possible restrictions on bear baits, we ask that all bear hunters do their part to limit chocolate in bear bait.
And, as a side note, unsuccessful drawing applicants and individuals who did not apply may now purchase a remaining bear license, which are still available for Hunt 0003, BERGLAND - 3RD PERIOD 09/25/11 - 10/26/11. Remaining bear licenses are available to Michigan residents only and will be sold until the quota is met in each hunt period. Purchasing a leftover license still resets your preference points to zero.