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Jacob Wheeler: Co-existing with bears in northern Michigan

Photo: Michigan Department of Natural Resources
Photo: Michigan Department of Natural Resources

In April, a bear turned the Grocer’s Daughter Chocolate shop in Empire into its personal pantry.

The bear broke into the back door and dragged a 50-pound bag of sugar outside for a sweet treat.

It kept coming back for more, and then a week later, it ate 16 chickens at a farm.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources captured and relocated the “Sugar Bear” 60 miles away. If the bear comes back the DNR could euthanize it.

That’s what happened to a different bear roaming a Meijer store parking lot in Traverse City a few years ago.

Glen Arbor Sun editor and publisher Jacob Wheeler has been thinking and writing about how we humans can coexist with bears.

Jacob Wheeler
Jacob Wheeler

"I quote some poems and some essays that have been written over the years about how we really emulate ... black bears," Wheeler said. "They're very smart, they're empathetic, they can live as a family but they also really thrive on their own. There's an individualistic streak to bears, which we strive for as humans in our culture."

There are ways we can learn to coexist with bears safely and that includes people taking some precautions.

"Respect that they're wild and respect that it's not good for bears to develop a dependency on food sources in our communities," Wheeler said. "There needs to be a barrier between us and bears."

What should you do if you cross paths with a black bear? The Michigan Department of Natural Resources has some tips.

Hear the full conversation at the top of the page. Read Jacob Wheeler's essay in the Glen Arbor Sun.

Tyler Thompson is the Morning Edition host and reporter at Interlochen Public Radio.