Michigan Bear Territory

The Scottville area has seen its fair share of bears over the years but not in comparison with what one can find in the Michigan Upper Peninsula.  Strongs, a tiny town on Highway M-28 about 30 miles west of Sault Ste. Marie, was recently designated the Black Bear Capital of Michigan by the Michigan Legislature.  You can find evidence of this fact in my picture to your left.

Irene Lawless, queen of bear hunters at Strongs, says she and her husband, Pat, logged nearly 70 bear kills by hunters last fall. They came to Strongs from as far as Louisiana.   

Irene and Pat have operated a motel, bar and gas station at Strongs for about 30 years. They feature an annual bear dinner to which the public is invited in late October.

“It all comes down to how well the bear is dressed and prepared.  Now that is not referring to a social outing that the bear himself might want to attend but how they themselves are prepared.   If that is done right, we Upper Peninsula folks can show you how to make a very tasty meal,” Irene said.

As to how bears prepare their own meals, well, I don’t think I care to be around for that event if you know what I mean?

Strongs has always had more than its share of bears. As a kid, I recall all the nights we went to the local dump in cars parked there to turn on the lights when the bears came in from the dark to feed on the garbage. It was like attending a drive-in theater. After two bears left there one night, I recall my dad asking: “Do you want to stay for the second showing?  My dad and his sense of humor!

Nowadays all those bears come to town in the spring to find home garbage when the berries are not yet ripe. At Paradise, about 25 miles from Strongs, we are terrorized by the bears each spring as they go house to house knocking down bird feeders for tasty sunflower seeds.  While much of the public has a big fear of the bears, the truth is that a black bear attack is extremely rare, unless you get between a sow and her cubs. She then gets very protective.

In Paradise there was an incident where a tourist began taking pictures of a bear raiding a McDonald’s garbage bin when the bear turned and attacked the person taking the pictures.  Onlookers, instead of helping that fellow began taking pictures of the mauling if you can believe that!

The best advice regarding bears overall would be to observe them from a distance, such as from your local zoo.  They can be unpredictable so be very careful.  The guy at the McDonald’ probably now wishes he had been somewhere else.  Maybe even Burger King where he could have had it his own way which would have been not to have been mauled in the first place.

Yes, caution is the byword regarding bears so learn the full meaning of that word before you venture out into the forests of Michigan. 

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