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Here a bear, there a bear, everywhere a black bear

Black bears have been seen making their way across Douglas County in search of food. (Contributed photo)

A couple unexpected guests visited Jan Pederson in Brandon on Memorial Day. Two black bears strolled up into her yard in the early evening.

Spying them through her patio doors, Pederson called 911 and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR). Both told her there was no cause for alarm, she said. Pederson lives on the southeast side of Big Chippewa Lake.

Stormy weather the night before blew her bird feeder to the ground. "That's what they were after," she said. Pederson has heard of bear sightings in Garfield and Miltona as well.

"We've been out here 30 years and I've never seen a bear," Pederson said. "DNR said to make noise and they'll usually take off."

DNR Conservation Officer Jeff Johanson said there have been several reports of bear sightings this year. Most bears have been seen around Spruce Center and Belle River.

"Like most wild animals, bears are generally going to be just as scared of you as you are of them," Johanson said.

Johanson said if a bear is a safe distance from you, just let it be; if it gets too close, making a lot of noise will alert the bear to your presence and it will likely move on.

Although black bear attacks are rare, Johanson said, it could happen if a bear felt threatened. Sow bears with cubs are more likely to react to protect their young.

"We don't want people putting themselves in a dangerous situation trying to get close to a bear to take a picture," Johanson said.

A second sighting occurred on May 31 at Carlos State Park. Deb Powers saw a lone black bear walking alongside the road around 1 p.m. and submitted a photo to the Echo Press for the Photo of the Week feature.

While setting up camp at the park, Powers and her husband Tom saw a black bear - and she's convinced it's the same one that she saw later that day in her corn patch at her home between Carlos and Miltona.

"Our bear had a longer snout with white on it," she said.

The bear then took a stroll down County Road 5 toward Miltona where it was viewed enjoying a bird feeder like a baby with a bottle and then it went east, according to accounts neighbors relayed to Powers.

Powers' employees at Powers Machining have reported sightings as well. Two bears were seen in Spruce Center. One person told her a cougar was on her property too.

Powers has a lot of bird feeders on her property and believes that having a dog that will bark may have prevented previous encounters.

On May 30, Mike Thoennes saw a cub run through his yard on County Road 5 three miles west of Highway 29.

Thoennes stopped on his way into town when he saw a cluster of cars on County Road 34 on May 31. A group had gathered to see a large black bear moseying about close to 100 yards away.

Thoennes also heard a black bear was nosing through trash on the southwest side of Lake Ida.

"I've never seen a bear in this part of the country," Thoennes said.

When bears venture closer to residences, they are usually attracted by a food source like bird feeders, garbage cans and pet food left outside, Johanson said. Removing the food source will eliminate the attraction.

There is no evidence that food sources are running low in the wilderness.

"The bears are just looking for an easier meal," Johanson said.