Afternoon update: Tranquilized bear relocated without injury
BEMIDJI -- A bear that wandered into the city limits Friday morning was tranquilized and relocated later in the day.
The bear’s presence prompted law enforcement to temporarily close the trail that runs along Lake Bemidji’s edge behind BSU.
The bear was first spotted about 6 a.m. near BSU. Bemidji Police officers found the bear near Paul and Babe at the Lake Bemidji waterfront. Bemidji Police Chief Mike Mastin said people were taking photos of the bear and it got “spooked,” running off northbound along the bicycle trail.
The Kraus-Anderson Walleye Classic’s Facebook page referenced the sighting of the bear, posting at about 7 a.m., “Rumor has it, a black bear thought our tournament stage was a great place to hang out, and our crew down there got a nice surprise down there this morning.”
By 8 a.m., law enforcement, aided by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and BSU security, had blocked off a portion of the trail that runs behind the Bangsberg Fine Arts Complex as the bear found a spot on the edge of the water and laid down.
The situation was contained, Mastin reported at that time and sked the public to stay away to keep events stable. The hope at that time was to provide the bear enough seclusion that it would wander back to its natural habitat later in the day.
“The best recourse, if it feasible, is to leave the animal as undisturbed as possible and keep people away until it can flee under the cover of darkness,” said Shelley Gorham, DNR Bemidji Area Wildlife supervisor.
The bear fell asleep in a densely covered area right behind the Bangsberg parking lot. The trail has two fences and its accesses at 12th Street and behind BSU were easily barricaded. A police department release said there were “numerous” pedestrians who walked by the area and officials were observed stopping those individuals to warn of the bear’s presence and direct people in other directions.
“This was a location we were able to control access and the bear was able to be where it was without any disturbances,” Gorham said.
By the afternoon, an individual with the Bemidji Veterinary Clinic arrived and worked with officials to tranquilize the animal.
The bear was not harmed, according to a police department release.
Gorham said the bear, estimated to weigh at least 200 pounds and suspected to be a young male, was relocated to an area state forest.
That decision was unusual, she said. Normally, when bears are found within cities they become “nuisance” animals that have become adept at living among humans, eating from bird feeders and garbage cans.
This particular bear, though, did not seem to be such an animal, Gorham noted.
“I wouldn’t call this bear a nuisance bear because I’m not aware of there being chronic issues,” she said. “It found shelter where it could.”
The DNR does not usually support the tranquilizing and relocation of nuisance bears because those bears’ habits simply relocate with the animal to another part of a city or community, she said.
“We don’t tranquilize animals typically in this sort of situation for a number of reasons,” she said. Other reasons include that the DNR staff in this area is not certified in using tranquilizers and the DNR does not keep the equipment or drugs on hand.
Also, there are risks in tranquilizing the animal in an urban setting, Gorham said.
“The darted animal can charge and run, run into a crowd of people. They don’t immediately fall down,” she said.
She also confirmed it is not that unusual to have bears wander into Bemidji city limits. Mastin said another bear was found in the city a couple of month ago.
“Look at Bemidji, it’s a small city nestled in northern Minnesota,” Gorham said. “We have a lot of wildlands around us. We have a healthy bear population. Bears are very adaptable and they can live quite closely with humans with minimal conflicts.”To see a video, https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=683190421750680