Bears found meandering near Midland; could there be any here?
Tammi Isaac Craig heard something in the yard Sunday night and figured it was another darned raccoon. She was off by about 380 pounds.
Slouched outside her window in Hope Township, attempting with its large paws and moderate-sized brain to unlock the secrets of her bird feeder, was a black bear.
It was the second bear sighting in Midland County in a week. Four miles north of Midland on July 22, homeowner Deborah Archer told WNEM-TV, she looked up and said to herself, "Holy (mild expletive)! There’s a bear in my front yard."
In Hope Township, six miles north of the first encounter, Craig took a few photos with her iPad, then sprinted to the bedroom where her husband, Keith, was sleeping.
"I scared him to death," she said: "The bear's out there! The bear's out there!"
She and Keith have since decided that it was probably a different bear. But it was definitely out there — which does not surprise Ashley Autenrieth of the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
"Ten years ago, it would have been unusual," she said, to have bears searching for snacks so close to Midland.
Today, "I wouldn't say it's a really common occurrence, but it isn't really rare, either."
Tammi Craig, 55, said raccoons have been helping themselves to her bird feeders, so it was only natural to assume another had struck when a motion sensor light came on around 11:30 p.m.
She looked to the top of the bird pole, didn't see one, gazed downward, and ... Well, as the saying goes, holy (mild expletive).
With Keith, 62, at her side, she said, she switched her cellphone for her iPad and began snapping more pictures, fighting both excitement and the glare off the window. They were joined by their cat, Boo, whose hissing and growling was so loud the bear heard it and walked away.
Then, apparently having had an inspiration, the bear returned. "He took both paws," she said, "and started pouring seed out of the feeder into his mouth."
Again, that did not surprise Autenrieth.
A 2017 survey estimated 10,799 bears in the Upper Peninsula and about 3,000 below, she said, "and they are pretty opportunistic." This one had already rummaged through the Craigs' garbage, it turned out, and "a really great bird feeder setup is a free meal opportunity for a bear."
The Craigs are hunters, and Keith mentally compared the bear to two of his trophies from the U.P. to come up with an estimate of 375-400 pounds for their visitor. While their bear had a brown posterior, a video seemed to show a black rump on the bear that astonished Archer a few days earlier.
Tammi Craig said that her husband wanted to open the window and scare the bear away. "He's going to break your feeder," he warned.
"I don't care," Tammi told him. "Having him there is more exciting."
The Craigs' German shepherd, Zeus, sleeps in an enclosure outside, but apparently did not wake up during the encounter.
That’s just as well, Autenrieth said. When bears have been reported in your area, keep smaller animals close.
Also, when faced with a bear or any other large animal equipped with fangs, claws and an uncertain temperament, “always take proper precautions for your own safety.”
It's important to report any sighting to the DNR. To date, she said, no bears have been spotted south of Saginaw County.
"That doesn't mean it's not possible, or that there aren't some bears in that area," she cautioned. "But I imagine if a bear started walking through Metro Detroit, we'd get a call pretty quick."