Sightings of black bears in SE Minnesota increase
Reports of black bear sightings are continuing to come into the Department of Natural Resources in southeastern Minnesota. Earlier ones came from Fillmore and Houston counties, while the most recent ones have been in the Cannon Falls area.
DNR officials say more bears are coming into the region from the north or across the Mississippi River from Wisconsin.
Don Nelson, DNR area wildlife supervisor, said he got the first calls this spring, leading him to believe that those bears had made dens and spent the winter here. Those were more in the Fillmore-Houston area. In past years, farmers harvesting crops have rousted a number of bears from dens.
DNR Conservation Officer Tyler Quandt, of Red Wing, said he received up to three calls a day a few weeks ago about bears from Cannon Falls to Red Wing or even farther south toward Lake City. Because some calls came from many miles away in the same day (a bear might move 10 to 15 miles in a day), he believes there is more than one bear.
Those bears are probably young males that are moving around to find mates — their mating season is from May to July. Those bears tend to be smaller, about 130 to 150 pounds, but a large male can weigh as much as 500 pounds, and some get a few hundred pounds heavier.
Bears are most often seen raiding birdfeeders, and "they are wrecking them," Quandt said. Because they are omnivores, the bears will eat the seeds, dog or cat food, as well as wild nuts and bears, grubs and other bugs. As crops ripen, they will also feast on sweet corn.
Black bears in Minnesota rarely attack humans, he said. The biggest danger is getting between a mother bear and her cubs.
Quandt said he expects more sightings in the fall, when more people are in the woods and bears are eating acorns and other wild food.
Nelson said people are seeing bears now because the animals are moving around more, and have to go into open fields or cross roads.
Black bears are expanding their range in both Minnesota and Wisconsin. Southeastern Minnesota actually has excellent bear habitat because there is ample food and a lot of woods, he said.
He believes this region eventually will have an established population instead of just some bears moving through now and then.
What to do if you see a black bear:
• Try to stay away from it; stay in your home or car. If you want to scare one away, stay in your home and yell and make noise.
• If you encounter one away from a car or building, stand your ground and maybe wave your arms, but don't run away. If the bear comes toward you, try to slowly back away.
How to avoid bear damage:
• Take in birdfeeders at night because bears are omnivores.
• Don't leave garbage, pet food or any other food outside.
• They like being in the wild, but they have been seen on the outskirts of Rochester.
Source: Department of Natural Resources
To learn more, go to http://www.dnr.state.mn.us/mammals/blackbear.html.
If you see a black bear, the DNR asks that you try to get a picture of it and then call Don Nelson at 507-206-2858, with info about when and where you saw it.