Family comes face to face with black bear while camping

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LAKE COUNTY, Mich. – Memorial Day weekend was cut short for one family after DNR officials shot and killed a bear that made an unexpected visit to a local campsite.

It happened early Sunday morning on a private campground in Lake County after Kara Hillard says she came face-to-face with the bear.

“There was something looking back at me but it didn’t look like a chipmunk or a mouse that we’d seen in the woodpile before,” Hillard said.

Instead, it was a 110 pound black bear hiding in a tree in Peacock Township, waiting for the chance to grab some food according to Hillard.

“We had just popped popcorn prior to that and we think that’s what brought him in closer,” Hillard told FOX 17.

The animal then left the tree and perched itself on top of the family’s woodpile.

“I got up and walked over and said to my son-in-law, ‘what is that noise?’” said Hillard.

Shining the light on the bear, Hillard said she found herself face-to-face with the hungry bear.

“I had never seen a bear or come that close to one,” said Hillard. “So we decided we’d call 911 and have the DNR take him away from camp because we had babies and toddlers, and we had the dogs.”

Hillard was hoping officials would tranquillize and relocate the bear but said the DNR told her, it wasn’t an option. That the animal was just “too friendly” with humans.

“They did allow us to sit in the vehicles and they did prepare us for the shots that would be fired,” said Hillard.

The bear was shot multiple times, once in the eye before it died and fell from the woodshed. Officials took the bear away in a truck. Hillard said she and her family are upset over the loss of the bear but thankful her family is safe and sound to tell the story.

“It’s sad, we didn’t want him killed,” explained Hillard. “We just wanted him away from the family and we didn’t want others to be hurt.”

FOX 17 reached out to the DNR for a statement for their offices were closed for Memorial Day. We’re told these types of interactions can be avoided by removing any type of food source from your campsite: including birdseed, dog food, and trash.

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9 comments

  • Bonnie pillard

    I am outraged about this bear being shot!! It sounds like target practice is alive and well!! Who gives the DNR the right to take the life of an innocent animal when it could be relocated or taken to a zoo or to the bear rehab/sanctuary place in the U.P.

    • Zach

      The DNR is an unregulated federal police force, didn’t you know that? Their officers are given the authority to make those decisions on the spot, and have almost zero accountability for their actions. This family should consider themselves lucky that they weren’t arrested for harassing the bear. They must not have had anything of obvious value that the DNR wanted, because that is how it would have gone down if they had.

      As for the bear, a 110 pound black bear is little more than a baby and has not yet learned whether humans are to be avoided yet or not. Bears are incredibly curious by nature, and popcorn piques that curiosity. This was not a bear that was “too friendly” to humans. It was a juvenile bear that was naturally curious. It should have been relocated, but that would mean a lot of paperwork for the officers and a lot of expense for the DNR. They shot this bear out of capricious laziness and politically motivated financial stinginess, not out of any established principles of wildlife management. This was poaching, done by the law enforcement organization that the people of this country have empowered to prevent poaching. If this is how the DNR is going to operate, then it is itself a significant threat to our natural resources, and should therefore be eliminated.

      And finally, the other lesson that ought to be learned here is that nobody should be going unarmed into the Michigan woods. Not all bears are young and curious. Some are old and grouchy. They are also not the only dangerous animals out there. Cellphone service is spotty outside our cities, and you can’t rely on being able to call for help. You need to bring the help with you.

      • Kara Hillard

        Zach, for 1 the family was not “harassing” the bear as you state. I do not recall you even being there, so you have no clue what you are talking about. For 2, again, given you were not there, your comment about this being a “baby” who has not learned whether or not humans are to be avoided yet is far-fetched at best. The neighbor was feeding the bear and showed family pictures on camera. For 3, because of the aggressive nature of the bear that would not leave, it left the DNR no other choice. I believe your definition of poaching in this instance is incorrect. And lastly, we were not in the woods. The family was in a private camp that has been used as such for more than 15 years. Also, a misconception is the last statement in that cellphone service is spotty and not being able to rely one for help. The cell phone worked well and help was only 20 minutes away. Before opening your mouth and inserting foot with your “capricious laziness and politically motivated financial stinginess” statements, maybe you should have all your information correct.

  • Kyle Bendlap

    Yeah this is after the beat it with sticks and pestered the bear which they brag about. How sad. What an unfortunate story. You’re in bear country, go back wherever you came from.

  • Chris

    Don’t move to the country if you don’t like the smell.
    Don’t move to the city if you don’t like the noise.
    Don’t go camping in the woods if you don’t want to see bears.

  • john

    It’s terrifying to even think about…Thankful to be alive??? Where did Fox 17 hire these anchors? Didn’t look like a chipmunk or a mouse so we called the DNR to come and take it away. If they were that scared for their life how about packing up and driving two hours home and next time you’re up there use common sense. The bear was in the tree is because it was scared, leave it alone without a food source and it will move on.
    There were all kinds of people in the area this past weekend and the bear was more than likely being pushed from area to area until he found his calling the DNR…
    The bear could have been tranquilized or a live trap could have been used but that would have been a long night for the DNR, force feed the bear some lead and make it home in time for dinner.

    • Holly

      Just so we are all clear this is OUR PRIVATE property. We have owned it for over 15 years. We know there are bears there and that we are in bear country. Never have we had a bear come into our camp. This incident happened at 1230am when all kids were sleeping. A neighbor had started feeding this bear and so he had no fear of humans. That is why he couldn’t be tranquilized and moved to another area. It is sad, but I’m sorry human life trumps a bear. If you don’t like it too bad.

    • Kara Hillard

      John, obviously you have no clue. This was a family camp. The bear refused to leave when left alone. The DNR tried to get the bear down willingly, which it refused and became angry with them. How about you use some common sense before you say things you have no knowledge about. Where bears are fed human food, they become comfortable around humans and will do anything to get that food. This family did not set up camp in some roadside wooded area. This was a camp used for several years. They were aware of bears up there but none that had come to camp. The danger lies in it was aggressive and needed to be shot. Period!