Return of the Dexter Bear? Possible tracks found at Hudson Mills golf course
Courtesy Brad Phillips
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.”
Courtesy Brad Phillips
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
“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.”