A wild but heartwarming encounter has led to the relocation of a young Michigan black bear after a local farmer found him asleep in the cattle barn.
“When you decided that a cattle barn is your den for the winter, but humans remind you it’s not… And are nice enough to move you to a new den they make while you’re sleeping,” captions Michigan DNR of their initial photo. Within, a cheery wildlife official smiles as he props up the tranquilized bear. Wearing a mask and muzzle cover that helps calm wildlife during transit, the young ursine would wake up to a new home built just for him.
The DNR wildlife crew sedated the yearling (a bear around 1-year of age) on bear on Jan. 15 after receiving a call from a Marquette County Farmer:
“This yearling bear was discovered in a Marquette County barn… Snoozing among the hay bales. Thankfully a conservation officer and a couple of wildlife biologists were able to get this fella to a new den on state land. Sleep tight!” Michigan’s DNR continues on Twitter.
“The bear had set himself up quite nicely in the barn. Had a nice little hay nest and he was eating grain when he wanted to just go get some grain,” Brian Roell, DNR wildlife biologist, tells M Live in an interview post-incident. “Cows in the barn to keep him company and there was a radio playing. He thought he was living high off the hog.”
As for how the initial discovery happened, “I think the bear probably was in the barn for quite a while. But they happened to be unloading a bunch of lumber into the barn on Saturday and the bear woke up and ran out of the barn,” Roell adds.
Michigan Black Bear Gets His Own Custom Den Courtesy of DNR
The yearling’s discovery is the first case Roell and his colleagues have ever heard of in which a bear bedded up in a Michigan resident’s barn for the winter. Regardless, the bear woke up to quite the surprise. Black bears aren’t true hibernators, and most don’t enter the full deep sleep of other hibernating animals. As such, this yearling was able to be startled out of his winter nap. But not for nothing.
Initially, the farmer attempted to scare the bear off from his barn. But the yearling returned shortly after, prompting him to call the DNR for assistance. So the entire situation led to DNR crafting the bear his very own custom den on state land.
Some 25 miles away, biologists dug out a new den beneath a fallen tree, then lined it with hay donated from the farmer. There, they tucked the youngster into his new home for what they hope is (at least) the rest of winter.
“We left him there and told him to ‘behave and stay there,’” Roell recalls with a laugh. He’ll need all the encouragement he can get, as yearlings can be particularly precocious during their first year away from their mothers. The yearling phase is when black bears branch out onto their own, and must put the behaviors their mothers taught them to the test.
Once he’s matured and ready to breed, the youngster will have plenty of black bear mates to choose from, too. Roell cites a “healthy and thriving” black bear population in Michigan. By the numbers, that’s a good 10,700 bears in the Upper Peninsula, with around 2,200 residing in the Lower Peninsula.