Be aware, bears are with us
A DNR area wildlife manager advises residents of bear country to be more "bear aware."
When you’re out walking, cycling or driving in rural Hubbard County, look out for bears.
Bears have been mentioned in Hubbard County dispatch reports at least eight times since April 20. During the last week or so, 2nd Crow Wing Lake resident Jennie Anderson and her neighbors had multiple encounters with bears.
Around 9 a.m. on June 4, Anderson not only saw a bear up close, she photographed it through her home’s windows. She posted several shots on Facebook, showing a black bear walking in her yard, attacking bird feeders on her deck and trying to climb back on the deck after being shooed off.
“It was going for the grape jelly feeder, the oriole feeder,” she said about the photo showing the young bear standing on its hind legs, swatting at a dangling object overhead. “He had just, prior to that, yanked down the suet feeder.”
Anderson said she is thankful there was a window between them. “He didn’t even seem to be too bothered by me,” she said.
Later that day, “a little bear (ran) out of the bushes and into my car,” she said. “He walked away. I wasn’t going fast, but yeah, he thumped my car. I had to put the bumper back on.”
“We’ve had quite a few reports from the public having bear issues this year,” said Erik Thorson, area wildlife manager with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Park Rapids.
Most of the reports, he said, “are related to them getting into bird feeders that are still up, or garbage that is available to bears, that’s not secured.”
Thorson said the area is seeing a “healthy number of bears” this year, whereas five to 10 years ago, “we didn’t have as many bears around. So, there is more human-bear interaction now.”
Thorson advised that people become more “bear aware.”
“Bears have extended their range, becoming more common in areas where they weren’t so common in the past,” he said.
He suggested that residents walk around their home, looking for ways to prevent a bear problem before it starts.
“Pick up all food sources that you might have out there,” he said. “Make sure that your bird feeders are picked up or are bear-proofed. Look for any spilled seed on the ground, and rake that up. It’s a good idea to just bring your bird feeders in at this time of year, because it’s a significant attractant for bears.
“Make sure you bring your garbage to the transfer station or lock it up in a way that bears can’t get to it. Also, make sure your barbecue grills are clean and that you don’t have pet food outside.”
Once a bear comes to your property, attracted by food or garbage, it will likely come back, Thorson said.
The DNR no longer traps, tranquilizes or relocates bears. If people have a major problem like a bear breaking into their home or attacking their pets, Thorson said, the law allows them to shoot and kill a bear that is endangering life or property.
“They just need to notify a conservation officer after they do that,” he said. “There’s a handful bears that are shot each year under those circumstances. But the vast majority of interactions don’t escalate to that level.”
While walking in bear country, Thorson advised, “It’s a good idea to have your dog on a leash. You don’t want to surprise a sow and her cub, or get in between a sow and her cub. Stay on the trails. Don’t sneak up on a bear. Make noise so they know where you’re at, so they can get out of your way.”
For help deciding what to do about a bear problem or assessing damage, call DNR Wildlife at 732-8452. For more information, visit the page “Living with Bears” at mndnr.gov.