Are the number of bears wandering into urban areas increasing, or are we just noticing them more?
It’s not that more bears are exploring the Greater Twin Cities, but that we are catching them doing so
Two bear spottings in St. Louis Park on Sunday evening and over 30 in Hennepin County this year alone have brought up the question: Are the number of bears wandering into urban areas increasing, or are we just noticing them more?
Andy Tri, Bear Project Leader for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, says it’s the latter.
“Sightings in the metro are much more common and part of it is the bear sighting map. It can become this self-fulfilling prophecy where people are more likely to check the map, see there are bears in their area, look out for them and report them,” Tri said, referring to the DNR’s online bear sighting map.
Another contributing factor: security cameras. It’s not that more bears are exploring the Greater Twin Cities, but that we are catching them doing so.
The bear spotted in St. Louis Park is most likely the same bear that was recently seen in Minnetonka, according to Tri. He said Anoka, Chisago and Washington County usually have the most sightings.
He said, looking at the recent bear sightings reported to the DNR, the bear’s path can be traced. It most likely followed Minnehaha Creek and the Burlington and Northwestern Railroad Corridor. If it sticks to the rail corridor, it could hit Theodore Wirth Park or the Minneapolis Chain of Lakes in search of wetland plants.
In June, bears seek out ants and in July it is berry season.
Tri confirmed the bear is a young male, three to four years old who left the den.
While it could keep heading east, Tri said the best option is for the bear to turn around and return to his den so he does not go toward any major highways and get injured.
“Generally, the bears are able to find their way out but but it’s really hard to say for an individual bear what choice they will make. There is a lot of traffic in the metro and I worry he could get hit by a car. That is always a risk,” he said.
He said the DNR does not generally pursue bears or intervene in their movement. But if one does encounter a bear, Tri’s advice is to give the bear lots of space and respect it like the wild animal it is.
“Minnesota is bear country, it just depends where you are in the state if you will encounter one. A lot of the sightings are individual bears just moving through,” Tri said.
Tri suggests moving trash cans and bird feeders into garages and, most of all, to respect the bears along their journey.
“We want them to move on without any issue. Bears and people find a way to co-exist, as long as everyone is doing their part to make sure there is no entrapment, bears have a good shot,” he said.