Talk with the Doc: Fun facts about Michigan black bears
It is estimated that there are approximately 12,000 Black Bears in Michigan, with about 10,000 in the Upper Peninsula and about 2,000 in the Lower Peninsula. Michigan Black Bears typically hibernate in December and come out of hibernation in March or April. The Bear Cubs are born during Mother Bear’s hibernation, usually in January. Mother Bear may deliver 1 to 3 cubs during her hibernation. The cubs only weigh about 10 to 16 ounces at birth and immediately start to breast feed on their Mother’s milk. After they all come out of hibernation in March or April, the Cubs usually stay with Mother Bear for about 1 1/2 years. These bears then go to be on their own.
The typical diet of our Michigan Black Bears includes both plant and animal matter. In early Spring, bears go to our many Michigan wetlands, where they feed on the many various plants growing near these wetlands. Fruits and berries are a very important part of their diet during our Summer and Fall seasons. It is essential for the bears to eat as much as they can find to accumulate significant fat reserves for their Winter hibernation. Bears feed heavily in the Fall season and they may gain as much as one to two pounds each and every day.
The majority of animal matter consumed by bears includes various insects such as ants, bees, beetles and other insects they can find. However, bears are opportunistic feeders, and they are capable of preying on most small to medium-sized animals including mice, squirrels, woodchucks, beaver, amphibians and reptiles. They may also go after human foods including agricultural crops, such as corn, apples, peaches, cherries, and others. As many of us have seen or experienced, bears will go after more food found in bird feeders, garbage cans, and remote garbage dump locations. These bears are great swimmers and many can run up to 30 miles per hour.
Although the weight of our Michigan Black Bears is highly variable, many adult female Black Bears may weigh up to 250 pounds, and adult male Black Bears may weigh up to 400 pounds. Some adult black bears may grow to be up to five feet tall, and when they are on all fours, they are approximately three to five feet in length. The male bears are typically larger than the female bears. The average normal life span of these great Michigan Black Bears is estimated to be about 30 years.
If you are interested in seeing Black Bears up close, I highly recommend a visit to Oswald’s Bear Ranch, located North of Newberry. They are open in the Spring, Summer, and Fall seasons when the bears are not in hibernation. Their informative website is: oswaldsbearranch.com.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Dr. Jim Surrell is the author of the best-selling SOS (Stop Only Sugar) Diet book and his new Joke Book, entitled “Laughter Is Good Medicine”. Dr. Jim’s website is sosdietbook.com.