Although I am not a bear hunter I have always been fascinated by these amazing animals. They can be up to 6 feet tall and adults vary in weight from 150 pounds to 500 pounds or more. The Minnesota record for the largest black bear killed during the hunting season is over 600 pounds.
The DNR estimates that there are 12,000 to 15,000 bears in Minnesota. This is lower than the estimated populations in the early 1990s when the populations were estimated to be between 20,000 and 25,000. Hunting is the major cause of mortality of bears.
Most bears live in the northern third of the state but they will often travel great distances in the fall looking for food, especially acorns, and then usually return to their summer home range before winter takes hold to find a den and hibernate.
I have had three bear encounters of the close kind during my life in the north country. The first was filming a “hibernating” bear with a Cass County forester. It was 20 degrees below and I was working on a TV piece that needed a bear for part of our story. The forester knew where there was an open den with a bear laying right in plain view in the middle of an open field. We thought it was a great opportunity to film a bear hibernating right under us. The bear didn’t think so, it rolled in its den, jumped up, climbed out of the den and took off running to the woods. I’m not sure who was running the fastest, us or the bear, we didn’t even get a chance to turn on the camera. Hard to do that running for your life.
The second encounter was walking up a road by our cabin. A friend and I got to the top of the hill to see three cubs climbing a tree 20 feet in front of us. Needless to say we backed down the road before we got a chance to see how close we were to their mother.
The third encounter was two years ago when we had five different bears hanging around our neighborhood. The photo included with this article is the biggest one I got on camera about 25 feet from our bedroom window. One morning I was walking around the corner of our house on my way to check our bird feeders when I came within 10 feet of a black bear standing on its hind feet. It was shocked at seeing me and I was petrified seeing it. The bear turned and ran into the woods. I went into the house, changed my pants and went back to fill my bird feeders!
These creatures are truly magnificent. They are almost human like. They can walk on two feet, have a better sense of smell than a dog, run almost 30 miles per hour, climb trees like a squirrel and play like kittens. There have been bear attacks in Minnesota but they are usually not interested in hurting people. I know that from my own little encounters over the years.
Bears, one of the animals that make Minnesota such a great place!