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Posted on Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 5:59 a.m.

Return of the Dexter Bear? Possible tracks found at Hudson Mills golf course

By Ben Freed


Dexter resident Brad Phillips found curious tracks while walking with his wife in the Hudson Mills Metro-Park Golf Course.

Courtesy Brad Phillips

Tracks spotted last week at Hudson Mills Golf Course may be the first signs that a bear has returned to the Dexter area.

The prints are unclear due to melting snow, but Russ Mason, chief of the wildlife division at the Michigan Department of Natural Resources, said they likely belong to a large animal, possibly a bear or a dog.

“It certainly could be a bear moving,” he said.

“We’ve had warm enough weather and we have the occasional bear that makes its way down to southern Michigan. From those prints it would be hard to say one way or the other.”

Dexter resident Brad Phillips found the prints while walking on the golf course with his wife on March 7. He said they appeared to be at least three inches across.

“They seemed to come out of the woods on the eastern side of the golf course and then came out to the center and kind of wandered along the path,” he said.

“They would go over to little sections of wood and dip in and out. We stopped following them when they got to the stream that runs through the course.”


Phillips said the tracks wove in and out of the path, often disappearing into wooded areas.

Courtesy Brad Phillips

The last confirmed sighting of a bear in the Dexter area was in July 2011. A bear (possibly two) had been first sighted at Hudson Mills Metro-Park and then at a number of locations in the surrounding area including one couple’s backyard where the animal helped itself to some free-range chickens.

The Dexter community took a special affinity to its last furry guest. The bear spawned a Facebook page, Twitter account, clothing line, and even copycat hay-bales. Mason said admiring a bear from afar can be fun, but warned residents not to get too close if there is another bear in the area.

“If you leave it alone, it will leave you alone, so don’t approach it, and don’t feed it,” he said.

“As a general rule, it’s a bad idea to feed any wild animal, but particularly feeding bears.

"The phrase we used to use when I was growing up is ‘a fed bear is a dead bear.’”

Feeding bears can lead them to expect food from humans, which can have disastrous consequences if the bear comes across a person that does not have a stash of treats available.


The last 'Dexter Bear' was photographed in a tree. Russ Mason said that if bears again appear in the Dexter area, the best thing to do is call the Department of Natural Resources immediately.

“Wild animals don’t take no for an answer,” he said. “So if they expect food you either give them food or they’ll mug you for it. And that can hurt.”

A Bear Management Plan sponsored by the DNR found that in 2009, more than 85 percent of Michigan's approximately 19,000 bears live in the Upper Peninsula. Mason said the animals are not uncommon in the northern Lower Peninsula, and do venture south from time to time, more commonly in the western half of the state.

The DNR keeps records of bear sightings, and any resident who sees a bear is encouraged to contact the department’s bear specialist, Dwayne Etter, at

“We’re always interested in hearing about when people see anything, and if there’s an urgent sighting they can call the Report All Poaching line at 1-800-292-7800.” He said. “It’s manned 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”

Ben Freed covers business for You can sign up here to receive Business Review updates every week. Reach out to Ben at 734-623-2528 or email him at Follow him on twitter @BFreedinA2



Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 9:59 p.m.

Look at that print closely, and squint a bit... It's a miracle!! Jesus In The Snow! Jesus In The Snow!

Local Yocal

Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 1:17 a.m.

Must be that new lost that was passed for petting bears, just came down for some loving.

Local Yocal

Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 1:25 a.m.

new law

Jim Pryce

Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 12:25 a.m.

Return? It didn't go anywhere. It probably just was hibernating, as that's what bears do.

Tom Teague

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 9:26 p.m.

My Scout Master put great store in tracking even though the Merit Badge was discontinued in 1952 ( It was actually called the Stalking Merit Badge). That said, looking at online photographs of tracks made in snow at a date uncertain isn't foolproof, but those look very much like the tracks of a big dog. Even accounting for melt, it certainly made a deep print, so it's relatively heavy. But, in the favor of those being bear prints, dogs tend to lope in snow and these look like something that just plodded through. Also bears are one of the few plantigrade animals, so I'd look for the heel being dug in a little deeper. Maybe it was a bear wearing dog paw shoes to utterly confuse us all. I mean, even a bear's gotta have a little fun now and then, right?

tom swift jr.

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 7:25 p.m.

With the freeze and thaw cycle we've been having, a medium dog track would look huge after a thaw.... There's no indication those are fresh tracks... my guess, much ado about nothing.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 5:49 p.m.

Yawn, I was just having a little nap - you know, getting away from that nasty snow and cold out there - when the Adrian black panther texted me about this article. Whee!!!! Famous again!

Ann Dwyer

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 5 p.m.

I'm more worried about coyotes in the area than bears. I've seen definite signs of those, and neighbors have heard them.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 8:44 p.m.

I've seen yotes in the County Farm Park.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 7:50 p.m.

My buddy lives off Ellis rd near Textile.Hear them all the time.Not unusual to see them time to time

Ann Dwyer

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 6:45 p.m.

I wouldn't mind them, but I have a small dog--a small dog who will not be leaving my sight outdoors.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 6:30 p.m.

Huge population of coyotes and red fox out in Dexter Township, you can hear them at night, and see them at times as well. We have seen more in the daylight then at night, I think they are acclimated to the area and the movements of the people.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 5:44 p.m.

There are plenty of coyotes around the area. I've seen a few west of Dexter. One came down the road early one Sunday morning. Stopped at the end of my drive...peed, continued down the middle of the road, turned right at the subdivision entrance and kept walking. He must have smelled my 3 dogs and needed to mark. We've heard young ones howling and last year I found a den of 6 pups in a big hollowed out stump.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 5:30 p.m.

That's what went through my mind. I live near the golf course and saw what looked to be a large coyote wandering near the Carriage Hill sub just a couple of days back. Could have been a large blond shepherd-type dog I suppose, but it looked to be foraging slowly in the woods for something and didn't have any place in particular it was going. So, it didn't look like a stray.

Top Cat

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 5:04 p.m.

Saw one the other day crossing Dixboro Road near Warren.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 4:54 p.m.

Are you still following me on Twitter? Send me a Tweet!


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 4:37 p.m.

I agree with Billy, looks like a dog track to me.

Morty Seinfeld

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 4:21 p.m.

Is that a bear track? Does the Pope poop in the woods? Is the bear Catholic?.....I don't know. BTW....I may have started my St. Paddy's Day celebrating a little early this year.

Bertha Venation

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 4:01 p.m.

Aw, the picture of the bear in the tree is so cute. I would hate to hurt him. I think what he needs is a pig, a frog and a Steudabaker with GPS.

Scott Straley

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 4:01 p.m.

I suppose all you need to do is find that bear that fits that glove.

Bertha Venation

Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 8:05 p.m.

If it does not fit.... you must acquit.

Morty Seinfeld

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 4:23 p.m.

Good one! I love it....very funny!


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 3:39 p.m.

Can we tranquilize and relocate the suburbanites instead of the bear?


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 3:29 p.m.

I saw a bear poop in the woods once.

Bertha Venation

Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 8:04 p.m.

,,,,, and I've got a cat named Phyllis.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 3:10 p.m.

Looks oddly familiar, like Major tracks only smaller.

Ron Burgandy

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 3:04 p.m.

I bet it's a bear coming out of the woods looking for a spare roll of Charmin toilet paper, because we all know what a bear does in the woods, right?


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 2:47 p.m.

Bears are still hibernating this time of year. Just a big dog.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 2:34 p.m.

Sorry those do not look like bear tracks. The shape does not match and the size are much smaller than the ones I have seen in mid Michigan.

Top Cat

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 2:13 p.m.

Those are not bear tracks.

Bertha Venation

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 3:59 p.m.

Hey TC.. I agree. I live in Ann Arbor on the west side between Maple & Wagner and I've seen tracks like that in my yard and going down my driveway.

Dr. Fate

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 2:07 p.m.

Dexter bears, bald eagles, hmph. Back in my day we had the mysterious escaped Liger!


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 3:01 p.m.

A liger??? That's pretty much my favorite animal. It's like a lion and a tiger mixed... bred for its skills in magic.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 2:06 p.m.

Im 100% sure those were my footprints. I was walking there recently. After a melt that is what my prints look like. Sincerely, Smokey the Bear


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:30 p.m.

A lady just west of Dexter was walking in the woods and had a bear behind her.

Dog Guy

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:30 p.m.

The larval cysts of some northern strains of trichinosis found in bear are not killed by freezing. I am not sure about Irish Wolfhounds.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:14 p.m.

Scary! Glad we have the cougar to protect us.

Bertha Venation

Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 8:14 p.m.

I'll protect ya, honey!


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:12 p.m.

We have VERY large dogs (Irish Wolfhounds) with VERY large paws. When they walk in the snow, they leave tracks that are bigger than my hand and have distinct claw (toenail) marks. If I did not know that these were my dog's paw tracks, I would assume they were bear....

Ann English

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 10:45 p.m.

I would expect that all the trees that were cut down after the Dexter tornado last year would turn the bear off from returning to Dexter.

Kitty O'Brien

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 12:55 p.m.

The first thought that came to mind was DOG but the 2nd photo is actually somewhat convincing...


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 5:39 p.m.

I agree Kitty. The long nails may be obstructed by the snow in the first picture. Small bear if a bear though.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 3:30 p.m.

Fourth picture did the trick for me!


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 3:02 p.m.

It was the third photo that convinced me!

Jack Gladney

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:04 p.m.

It's hard to tell the scale on the second picture, but if those are dog prints, they are from a really big dog... That might be red... And answer to "Clifford."


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 12:53 p.m.

General Notice about Bears: We advise all outdoorsman to wear noisy little bells on their clothing so as not to startle bears that aren't expecting them. We also advise outdoorsmen to carry pepper spray with them in case of an encounter with a bear. It is also a good idea to watch out for fresh signs of bear activity. Outdoorsmen should recognize the difference between black bear and brown bear scat: Black bear scat is smaller and contains lots of berries and squirrel fur. Brown bear scat has little bells in it and smells like pepper.

Bertha Venation

Thu, Mar 14, 2013 : 8:02 p.m.

ROTFL, Bily! Good one!


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:35 p.m.

Billy....Sorry.I guess I just got up a little too early to read and comprehend comments thoroughly ( made the same mistake about a question that got deleted for no apparent reason ( which my comment asking why it got deleted got deleted ))


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:33 p.m.

Right on, Billy - made me LOL.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:21 p.m.

Shhhh...don't mess up the funny...


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:05 p.m. seem to know what you are talking about but you should have mentioned that there no brown bears anywhere near Michigan ( except zoos )

Jack Gladney

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 12:50 p.m.

When Dexter Bear is in town, you can always count on an interesting comment thread here. Welcome back, buddy!

John Counts

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 12:45 p.m.

Per the DNR about what to do if you encounter a bear: .1 Stand your ground and then slowly back away. 2. Make yourself look bigger and talk to the bear in a firm tone of voice. 3. Fight back if actually attacked. Take away the teeth and claws and maybe I'd fight back.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 4:20 p.m.

Cole you may not be playing for long.

Cole Bertsos

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 2:42 p.m.

I think I would just play dead.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:54 p.m.

John I have been to Brooks Falls in Katmai. Been within 30 yards of BIG brown bear while they were feeding on salmon. There we were told do not make eye contact and back away slowly if one was coming towards us. I did not have the nerve to talk to those bears!


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 12:28 p.m.

That's a dog track there guy. Bear tracks have notable claw marks.... I know several dogs...that aren't even large breeds...just LARGE...that would make tracks bigger than that. Unless of course you wear a size XXXX glove....


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:50 p.m.

Got a bear rug right next to me 5" across. And most of the time tracks do get bigger when they melt.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:38 p.m.

I agree, dog tracks. Folks around here don't seem to understand how a large prints can not be accompanied by human prints if its a dog. Some people in rural areas will let their dogs roam free. Ask someone nearby where the tracks were spotted and they may know who's dog it is.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 12:59 p.m.

Ok Billy I'm give you this one.Melting snow actually will make prints bigger.

Bob W

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 12:56 p.m.

I'm skeptical myself. Three inches wide is not that big a deal and well within big dog range. But as has been said I hope we do actually have bears in the area though I know not everyone shares that view.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 12:50 p.m.

They can be unclear all they want...I'M telling you that's a dog track as someone who has seen a fair amount of Michigan black bear tracks before. You can even google image search it if you'd like. Bears have distinct claw marks around the outside of the pad track. The reason people THINK that's a bear track is because of the large diameter...but a large black lab will have that same large diameter track. It's more fun to think that MIGHT be a bear track that's what we'll say....


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 12:35 p.m.

Billy read the article.I says they are unclear because of melting snow.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 11:27 a.m.

The metaphor of the bear expecting food from humans after getting free handouts and then mugging them if they don't have it is interesting and could apply to humans as well.

Bertha Venation

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 4:02 p.m.

@ TDW.... you haven't seen my Mother-in-Law.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 12:33 p.m.

That's a scary thought - bear panhandlers!


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 11:43 a.m.

Yea, but humans don't have fangs, razor sharp claws or eat their victims


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 11:11 a.m.

Mr Koernke has a very large dog and I have seen him walking it and he lives by the golf course? so maybe the dog has been out on patrol


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:43 p.m.

Some folks in rural areas will let their dog roam free. My parents routinely get visits from their neighbors dog and his previous black lab that has since passed. They simply walk it back home when they take their dog for a walk. My folks have a lab as well but it never leaves their property.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:21 p.m.

Wouldn't you see human prints with the dogs if he was walking his dog?


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 11:04 a.m.

All joking aside, I would be much more concerned about a cougar running around than a bear.You can thumbs down me if you wish but I'd shoot a cougar on sight , but not a bear


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 2:06 p.m.

tdw, I was not taking a shot at you, if I had you would know it, I am anything but passive-aggressive. Let me assure you that I will not be attacked or eaten by the cougar, you have to have a level of common sense in these things, having that common sense is what has kept me from having a video or picture of this cougar thus far. As you can read/see we have studied its behavior from afar, we may be a tad bit excited to get proof, but not entirely crazy~!


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 2 p.m.

Rural...I'm not sure you are taking a shot at me or not but I'm sure that's how that lion in the zoo ( or whatever it was ) that killed the girl a week or so ago acted


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:11 p.m.

tdw let me assure you that the one my family keeps spotting, acts as if its being kept somewhere and allowed to roam every now and then. Here is why we think so (nope not just because the Game Ranch is right there either!). All encounters this cat could care less! When its dark out, very little reaction to headlights. The one time spotted in the field, lounging much like a house cat on a window sill, it just laid there, couldn't care less about the humans. Unfortunately that go round my Sister & Brother In Law were on their way to work with no camera handy. One way or another I am gonna get proof of this creature, just so the naysayers can shut the heck up. Those of us who live right in that area, know what we have seen and experienced, its not the run of the mill coyote or red fox, this is a definitely a cat of some sort. I believe its why my dogs have started going bezerk in the middle of the night, never have before even for deer or a coyote in the yard.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 12:46 p.m.

Yes Brad I certainly do.But that's not the case visa versa.A bear won't hide in the bushes waiting for a nice hunk of flesh to walk by


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 12:33 p.m.

Why would twd shoot a cougar? What a sad thing for you to think of doing. What's being a carnivore got to do with anything? You might get more than thumbs down.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 12:33 p.m.

You do realize that "omnivore" includes everything that a "carnivore" eats, right?


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 11:31 a.m.,why would I ? A cougar is a carnivore a bear is a omnivore

Bob W

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 11:17 a.m.

Tdw, you're kidding... right??


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 10:34 a.m.

I don't know about the North Campus Cougar, however the Cougar my family & sister's family keep spotting out in Dexter Township (North Territorial & Hankerd Road) was spotted by my daughter last week at 5:30-5:45am while on her way to work. The Bear I also believe exists since that same daughter's BFF Father spotted it last year, he hunts all kinds of animals and would know what he was looking at! Maybe with the newly fallen snow that is sticking, I can get some pictures of this cougar's tracks, so far it has eluded me!


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:03 p.m.

yes however my GF's who work on North Campus assure me that due to the inclement winter weather, its not them this time, however when its warmer out, LOOK OUT!~ LOL!


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 12:56 p.m.

Oh, there are plenty of Cougars on Campus... teeheehee...


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 10:15 a.m.

Hold on to your sons Ladies. It's spring, and just about time for a return of the north campus cougar as well.


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 10:12 a.m.

Hey DB! Welcome back! Watch out for the Nuge!

Joslyn at the U

Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 3:51 p.m.

No hatin on the NUGE lol


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 1:59 p.m.

Billy Spot & stalk is the only way!


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 12:31 p.m.

Dog hunters are NOT hunters....period. I don't know any legitimate hunters that even respect dog hunters... If you use a dog for duck retrieval...I'm not talking about're not called a "dog hunter."


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 11:51 a.m.

My point is watch out for the Nuge!


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 11:48 a.m.

arbor....maybe but it would still be done within the law, so what's your point ?


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 11:43 a.m.

Which is to say he would have dogs with radio transmitters tree the bear then he would shoot it out of the tree, yes?


Wed, Mar 13, 2013 : 11:22 a.m.

The " Nuge " lives in Texas now so no need to worry.Besides, he would do it legally anyway