The black bear population is growing throughout the upper Great Lakes region. Most of those bears live where you’d expect – in the woods. But now, a few bears have decided to move to town. And that’s making some people anxious. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chris Julin has this report:
The black bear population is growing throughout the upper Great Lakes region. Most those bears
live where you’d expect – in the woods. But now, a few bears have decided to move to town.
And that’s making some people anxious. The Great Lakes Radio Consortium’s Chris Julin has
Alison Clarke lives in northern Minnesota in the city of Duluth. She has big windows that look out on her
backyard. There’s a pair of binoculars on the dining room table. And there’s a list of birds she’s
seen in the yard. Actually, she has more than birds on her list.
“Let’s see. March 16th was the first observation of bears this year. Grabbed the neighbors’ suet
that was hanging out there. That was probably the 300 pound or so sized one.”
Alison Clarke records a bear sighting every two or three days – sometimes in the middle of the
(sound of outdoors)
Out in her yard, she points to a bird feeder sitting on top of a wooden post.
“It’s eight and a half feet from the ground to the base of the feeder. The largest bear that we’ve
known can reach with its claws and nose up to the base of that feeder.”
This is the middle of town, but the yards are full of pine trees. Creeks and rivers wander all
through the neighborhood on their way to Lake Superior. And they make great thoroughfares for
bears. Bears have always walked through Duluth – on occasion. Now, about 10 bears have taken
up permanent residence in town.
Alison Clarke is on the lookout for bears. She keeps her garbage in the garage. She doesn’t leave
her windows or her sliding door open unless she’s nearby. But one time she walked around the
corner of her house and came face-to-face with a mother bear and her cubs.
“They’re not going to eat me, but if I were to surprise them, it’s
a significant potential danger.”
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources put a trap in the yard a couple years ago. They
didn’t catch anything. The bears are so wise to the ways of people that one of them would stick
his head in the trap to check out the bait, but he never stepped into the cage.
So Alison Clarke wants the city of Duluth to get rid of the bears that live in town. That means
killing them. The Department of Natural Resources says there’s nowhere to relocate the bears.
Minnesota’s woods are full of bears. And besides, they say bears come right back if you catch and
Some people in the neighborhood want the bears removed. Some of the neighbors want the bears
left alone. And some of them aren’t sure.
(sound of Kirstin & Kyra)
Kirstin Peterson is digging in the garden with her four-year-old daughter, Kyra. They don’t come
out in the backyard after dusk. And Kyra isn’t allowed to play in the yard alone.
“I’m conflicted. I don’t know if I want the bear to be killed by humans just because we’ve entered
their territory. Or I’m not sure if they’ve entered ours. (Kyra: “Bears are scary.”). When it comes
to threatening my child, I get to be myself a mother bear. (Julin: “So what do you want to have
happen?”). For it to go away (nervous laugh).”
That probably isn’t going to happen. Martha Minchak is the state’s wildlife manager in Duluth.
She says the bears are comfortable in the city. She says the state will bring in professional
trappers to catch bears that are persistent trouble-makers – but that’s a last resort.
“If we do have really chronic problems, where folks have tried everything else they can do to
clean up the situation – remove the bird feeders, gas grills, pet food, that kind of thing – and the
bears continue to come back, then we’ll try to get the contract trappers out wherever we can set up
the traps and try and remove some of these bears.”
Last year in Duluth, a bear took a swipe at a 10-year-old boy on a bicycle. Martha Minchak says
people are lucky that no one’s gotten hurt yet. She wants the city of Duluth to bring in sharp-shooters, or have an archery hunt. But she says state and city budgets are so tight that nothing
like that will happen this year.
City hall is getting some phone calls about bears, but the city has no plans to take any action.
Some bear activists from Minneapolis are planning a workshop in Duluth. They want to
demonstrate guns that fire bean bags, and other “non-lethal” methods to chase bears away. State
wildlife managers say they’ll go to the workshop, but their number one priority is to get people in
Duluth to lock up their garbage and pet food and quit tempting the bears.
For the Great Lakes Radio Consortium, this is Chris Julin.