A real bear: NW Minnesota sees a few more bears than normal

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These bears are not looking for pic-a-nic baskets – but they do want some food.

The Beltrami County Sheriff's Office says it's received "several reports" of bears in the area recently and some (like the one above, which approached a deputy's car) are getting a little too close for comfort.

The sheriff's office says that last week, there was a report of a bear pawing a sliding glass door at a house north of Blackduck off Highway 72.

There have been a few more sightings than normal, according to the Bemidji Pioneer, with one DNR supervisor saying the dry weather means there isn't much food around for them, so they're wandering further (likely closer to people) to find some.

"Most of the time bears will move along on their own, but if you feed them they'll hang around and become a nuisance and may get dangerously comfortable around humans," the post says.

Black bears live throughout much of northern Minnesota, according to the DNR, and there are about 20,000 in the state.

The Star Tribune reported last fall those numbers have stabilized, and are lower than in the late 1990s and early 2000s when the population reached a peak. A strategic increase in hunting licenses brought that down – but maybe too far. The DNR has since had to scale that back again, in an effort to re-stabilize things, the Star Tribune says.

The DNR says conflicts between the animals and humans have increased as more homes and cabins are built in northern Minnesota, and more people travel there for recreation.

They're generally scared of humans, but will get close if they find food around – and once a bear finds food from a source, it'll often keep returning to that spot.

That can make bears a nuisance, and a safety hazard.

"Although some bears become used to people, they are still wild animals no matter how 'tame' they may appear," the DNR says.

If you come across a bear, the agency says to just let it be and wander off, unless it's threatening something or someone. If that's the case, the sheriff's department suggests trying the following:

  • Don't feed it. Scare it away.
  • Make loud noises, bang pans, yell or use air horns.
  • Don't be gentle! Chase it away.
  • Throw rocks or pieces of firewood or use a slingshot.
  • If you find a bear cub, leave right away. A protective mother may be close.

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