Michigan Bear Battle Over Private Land Tags

_There's a wildlife controversy brewing over bear licenses. State regulators want to allow some licenses only for private land. They say that's one way to control bears that cause damage to private property. But bear hunters say it would lead to wealthy landowners controlling the game. The push for private land licenses is coming primarily from the northeastern part of the Lower Peninsula. Hunters refer to it as "club country," because of the number of private hunt clubs there. A state Natural Resources Department survey last year found a surprising number of landowners from that part of the state saying bear are causing structural damage to their property.

__"Now structural damage doesn't mean knocking down a birdfeeder. It means ripping the tar paper off something or knocking down a door or whatever," says Russ Mason, head of wildlife for the DNRE. The state follows several steps to deal with so-called "nuisance" animals, but landowners apparently want more leeway to deal with the problem themselves. One possibility is to hand out special tags to kill problem animals, but state biologists say an expanded hunting season is just as effective. "Whether it's nuisance geese or nuisance deer we try to push the use of hunting seasons, different license types to address an issue before we move down to the next thing," Mason says.

But bear hunters are not pleased with the idea of licenses only for private land. "What this is going to lead to is a European style of hunting where only the rich man can bear hunt," says Mel Guntzviller, a bear hunter from Antrim County and a member of the Michigan Bear Hunters Association. He says giving roughly half the bear licenses for private land will mean the public hunter will have to wait a lot longer, and already it can take five or six years to get a bear tag in a popular hunting area across most of Northern Lower Michigan._

What do you think: A good idea? Or creeping European-style hunting exclusion?