Cub count underway

If you have trail camera photos of female black bears with cubs from anywhere in Michigan during 2016 or happened to see a family of bears, you have valuable information that may be the key to getting a better handle on the number of bears in the state than other methods that are currently being used. The best way to get a count of the number of bears in the state over the widest area possible is by tapping into what Michigan residents know and the popularity of game or scouting cameras can play an important role in that. The benefit of this method is it is the closest thing to an actual count of live bears and anyone who has seen a bear or has a game camera can participate.

The results of such a survey are bound to generate some interesting and valuable information, and if conducted on an annual basis, the results should provide an excellent index of bear numbers as long as participation is high enough. The results of this survey conducted during 2015 are reported in the January 2017 issue of Woods-N-Water News.

One of the most valuable types of information that such a survey would provide is the number of females with cubs and how many cubs each female has. The DNR does not currently know how many cubs are produced in the state each year. Input from anyone who has seen or has photos of sows and cubs would help fill an important information gap. Such a survey would obviously not be a count of all cubs produced in the state during a given year, but it would provide a minimum figure and a cub production estimate may be possible from those numbers.

Veteran outdoor writer Richard P. Smith from Marquette is conducting the 2016 Michigan Bear Count to try to find out what type of information will be generated. Smith has won numerous awards for his work. His most recent honor was being chosen as the Dave Richey Outdoor Communicator of the Year for 2016 by the Michigan Outdoor Writers Association (MOWA). Richey was a longtime member of MOWA and was the outdoor writer for the Detroit News for more than 20 years.

The DNR recently released their most current population estimate of bears that are at least one year old and those figures are from September of 2015. The DNR currently estimates the bear population based on the number of animals harvested by hunters each year and the amount of effort that goes into that harvest. Bear hunting regulations that will be set for 2017 then, will be based on population estimates that are two years old.

Smith studies and photographs black bears year round and is also an avid bear hunter. He has written a number of books about black bears, including Understanding Michigan Black Bear and the second edition of Black Bear Hunting. The writer is passionate about bears and bear management.

Reports about the number of bears seen and photographed can be emailed to Smith at For those who don’t use a computer, reports can be sent to Bear Count, 814 Clark St., Marquette, MI 49855. Simply report the total number of bears seen or photographed, including the number of females with cubs and how many cubs each female had. Please include the county they were seen or photographed in and when (day and month) they were seen or photographed. If you are a bear hunter and tagged one of the bears that were seen, please include that information, too, so that animal can be deducted from the total.

Please do not include photos of bears. They take up too much space and can quickly fill the email account.