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The only species of bear found in Michigan is the black bear. Michigan’s forestland in the Upper Peninsula provides the ideal habitat for the species, with ample food and plenty of cover. Approximately 90 percent of the bear population in Michigan calls the peninsula home. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources protects the black bear from hunters.
The black bear in Michigan lives up to its name with a thick, black coat. The bear generally walks on all four legs. When born, cubs weigh less than 1 pound but gain up to 10 pounds before emerging from the den. The size of black bears varies based on their age, sex, eating habits and the season, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources website. The females may weigh up to 250 pounds at maturity; the male is almost twice as large, reaching up to 400 pounds. On all fours the black bear stands about 3 feet tall, but it reaches up to 5 feet when standing.
Reproduction and Birth
A black bear is considered an adult when it becomes sexually active and can reproduce. In Michigan the black bear reaches maturity at around 3 or 4 years old. They begin breeding in late May and continue into July. Several males may breed one female to ensure conception. In the early fall, the female searches for a den, moving out into the rural, mountainous areas. She generally spends between 4 and 7 months in the den, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources website. The female gives birth in her den during hibernation in January and generally has a litter of cubs every other year.
Black bears in Michigan feed on the natural fruits, nuts, berries, fish, roots, small animals and honey found in vast amounts in the Upper Peninsula of the state. One square mile supports a single bear in the forestland. However, bears wander into populated areas looking for food. They have a very good sense of smell and follow their noses to local garbage cans and campsites.
While an encounter with a black bear may become dangerous, they are naturally shy. While you hike in the forests of Michigan, the bear generally uses his keen sense of smell to detect you and moves on before you ever come in contact. Most meetings of bears and humans occur over food. The naturally shy bear becomes bold when food is involved. Therefore, keeping campsites clean and sealing any remaining food helps prevent bear intrusions.
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