MUSKEGON, Mich. — The Michigan Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says that they have received several reports of a black bear sighting in the City of Muskegon.
The DNR says that the majority of the bear sightings were in the city limits, west of US-31 and south of the Muskegon River. They also said that they had an earlier report of the bear in a tree east of US-31, which leads them to believe that the bear is heading west.
Caleb Cutler, a barber in Muskegon, was just about to go to bed when he noticed several police cars pull up on his street in the McLaughlin Neighborhood around 1 a.m. Wednesday morning.
"I was laying in bed and it had to have been probably like, one, one o'clock, and I saw seven or eight cruisers roll up, started flashing the house next door... And then they started to shine in the trees up there in the front yard... I look up and I saw a little paw and big old bear face. And I was like, holy cow, man. There's a bear up there," said Cutler.
Cutler said that the police stayed in the area for about 30-45 minutes waiting for the bear to come down.
"It wasn't gonna come down. So they took off about 30 minutes later. And that's when about half the city Muskegon shows up and starts looking at it and taking pictures and stuff up in the tree. So it was it was a crazy night. It's funny," Cutler added.
The DNR says that these types of sightings aren't as rare as people might think.
"So this is not an unusual event to happen, especially this time of year, and especially in that location. So right now, just due to seasonality of bear movements, in the early spring and summer months, those bears have risen from hibernation, and so they're moving around different locations looking for natural foods," said Rachel Leightner, Wildlife Outreach Coordinator for the Michigan DNR.
Black bears preferred habitats are in watersheds and along riverways, especially in the warmer months.
"There are a lot of times bears move farther south from Newaygo by just simply following the Muskegon River. And so a lot of bears move up and down the Muskegon River Corridor. Sometimes they make it as far south as to Grand Rapids and those kinds of locations. And so it's pretty common for us to see bear observations in that area and probably throughout the next couple of months," added Leightner.
Leightner says if you come across the bear in the area to just remember of couple of things. First, you want to remain calm. Black bears are known to be extremely skittish and shy, and if given the opportunity, they are going to flee.
Secondly, you should try to leave the area. Just slowly back away and make sure you give them an escape route to flee. If you have small pets or kids with you, bring them in close so the bear doesn't feel threatened.
Leightner said that if you want to continue to report bear activity in the area, that is okay. But what is extra helpful is reporting any property damage that may occur from the bear, reporting if the bear appears to not be afraid of you, or if it displays any aggressive behavior.
To report bear activity in the city, call (517) 292-7800 and they will put you in contact with a local conservation officer.
The DNR thinks that the bear could have likely came into the city limits looking for food.
"Unbeknownst to us, a lot of us have bear buffet in our backyard that can draw bears in closer to these urban and residential areas. So things like bird feeders, dumpsters that don't have lids on them, pet foods that people put outside, these are all really good food sources for bears, and they're all high in nutrition. And they also lead off a food odor. And so if a bear catches a smell, or if it's just curious about an area, it can certainly move in closer to our homes, maybe closer and some of us would like. So that might have been what drew the bear into the area. And so ultimately, we don't want the bear to be in these residential areas," said Leightner.
The DNR recommends that people in the area should consider removing food sources where you can. Consider taking down bird feeders, securing dumpster lids or even brining trash inside for the next few weeks to avoid accidentally attracting a bear.
And even though some people may have been frightened by the sightings, Cutler said that the sighting in his neighborhood kind of felt like a little block party when the community came out to watch, "A lot of people out there trying to check it out and get a little glimpse of the bear. Everyone's going live on Facebook and it was fun. It was a good time."
To learn more about black bears and other Michigan wildlife, visit Michigan.gov/wildlife.
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