DETROIT LAKES, Minn. - Two area college students can laugh about it now, but a close encounter with a black bear north of Detroit Lakes had them running for their lives.
Minnesota State University Moorhead students Courtney Blinn and Damon Pautzke took a trip to Tamarac National Wildlife Refuge in Becker County on Sunday, Sept. 17, for a scenic hike and some time in a hammock.
"We were laying in the hammock, and Damon heard something approach us and the bear was 10-15 feet from us," Blinn said. "So, he was like, 'we gotta go, there is a bear.'"
Blinn and Pautzke said they tried not to overreact when they saw the bear. They quietly got out of their hammock and backed away, leaving their shoes, backpack and phone behind.
"We were walking and kind of speed walking, jogging, because we did not think he saw us, but he heard us and was chasing us down the trail," Blinn said.
They thought they had outrun the black bear, but "all of a sudden, we hear him behind us again, coming at us," Blinn said.
Pautzke said the bear wasn't running at full speed, but moving at a jogging pace.
"We thought we had a good chunk of distance between us, but he caught up to us, so that is the freaky part," Blinn said.
They went back to retrieve evidence of the bear experience, including a torn shirt, a chewed hiking shoe and a cell phone with a bite out of it.
"You can see the crack there, that is where his tooth was and it comes through by the camera," Blinn said, displaying the phone.
The two are thankful to be safe.
"It is like, 'oh, we saw a bear, that is interesting,' but you usually don't get stalked or pursued by one," Pautzke said. "We were on edge but were soon laughing about it and how interesting and cool it was."
The bear took two things: the couple's Cheetos and a bottle of Gatorade.
The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources says this is the time of year that bears and moose are on the move.
A vehicle recently struck and killed large black bear near Marion Lake by the town of Dent in Otter Tail County. The driver suffered minor injuries.
The DNR says bears are preparing for winter and will be looking for food. If you encounter them, back off like the MSUM students did.
"It is one thing for someone to read about and see what to do with a bear encounter. It is quite another thing when you are faced with a 200-300 pound animal and that fear response is very strong," said Steve Chihak, a DNR conservation officer. "They did the right things and moved away from the bear."
The DNR says moose are also on the move because of the fall rut. One was struck and killed on Interstate 94 just east of Moorhead over the weekend.