Bears start looking for food as warmer weather returns

The Department of Natural Resources has a warning for you as Spring arrives in northern Michigan.

They say with warmer temperatures around the corner, bears will be moving into neighborhoods. Officials say bears typically start leaving their dens in early to mid April. Over the winter their metabolism slows down, so when they first come out they aren't ravenous. However, once they start moving around and their body temperature returns to normal, the bears become very hungry.

The DNR says sometimes bears will get into trash cans and grills, but birdseed tends to be a favorite. About three-quarters of a bear's diet is made up of plant material, seeds, and fruit (insects, larva, and ants and other animals are sources of protein) - and bird feed includes many of these things. It's also easy for them to get and high in fat content.

The DNR recommends you put those things away before a bear realizes they're there - or they'll keep coming back.

"When the bears are really hungry and more apt to come close to a home - typically bears are quite timid, scared of people, and would rather just avoid us - but hunger can be a pretty powerful motivator, especially in the springtime," said Steve Griffith, a Wildlife Habitat Biologist for the DNR in Traverse City.

Bears like to be near swamps, rivers, and good forested areas, but will come into yards for food. Officials estimate the Northwestern Lower may have a small increase in bear population.

The DNR office says anyone with food sources normally kept outside should bring them in until May, when a lot more plants and insects will be available for the bears to eat.