A lot of bears have been spotted in Douglas County this spring. The newspaper did a story about it in last Wednesday's issue, reporting about sightings south of Parkers Prairie and near Lake Carlos.
Although Department of Natural Resources officials say sightings have become somewhat common in our area, whenever a bear ambles onto someone's property it jolts excitement. And for some - worry. They're concerned about a bear damaging their property or injuring someone.
For those reasons, the Minnesota DNR is reminding anyone living near bear habitat to be aware of bears this spring and summer and check their property for food sources that could attract them.
"Bears are very active now and have fairly large territories," said Beau Liddell, Little Falls Area Wildlife Manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in a news release issued last week. "Interactions with people have increased in the past couple months in central Minnesota."
Liddell explained that as bears emerge from hibernation, their metabolism gradually ramps up and they will begin looking for food at a time when many natural food sources can be scarce. Pet food, livestock feed, bird seed, compost or garbage can attract bears.
Only black bears live in the wild in Minnesota. They usually are shy and flee when encountered. Liddell's advise: Never approach or try to pet a bear. Injury to people is rare, but bears are potentially dangerous because of their size, strength and speed.
The DNR does not relocate problem bears. Relocated bears seldom remain where they are released. They may return to where they were caught or become a problem somewhere else.
The DNR offers these tips for avoiding bear conflicts.
Around the yard
• Do not leave food from barbeques and picnics outdoors, especially overnight. Coolers are not bear-proof.
• Replace hummingbird feeders with hanging flower baskets, which are also attractive to hummingbirds.
• Eliminate bird feeders or hang them 10 feet up and 4 feet out from the nearest trees.
• Use a rope and pulley system to refill birdfeeders, and clean up spilled seeds. Where bears are a nuisance, bird feeders should be taken down between April and Dec. 1. Taking down feeders at night will not prevent bears from visiting feeders during the day.
• Store pet food securely inside and feed pets inside. If pets must be fed outdoors, feed them only as much as they will eat.
• Clean and store barbeque grills after each use. Store them in a secure shed or garage away from windows and doors.
• Pick fruit from trees as soon as it's ripe and collect fallen fruit immediately.
• Limit compost piles to grass, leaves and garden clippings, and turn piles regularly. Do not add food scraps.
• Harvest garden produce as it matures. Locate gardens away from forests and shrubs that bears may use for cover.
• Use native plants in landscaping whenever possible. Clover and dandelions will attract bears.
• Elevate bee hives on bear-proof platforms or erect properly designed electric fences.
• Do not put out feed for wildlife (like corn, oats, pellets or molasses blocks).
• Store garbage in bear-resistant garbage cans or dumpsters. Rubber or plastic garbage cans are not bear-proof.
• Keep garbage inside a secure building until the morning of pickup.
• Properly rinse all recyclable containers with hot water to remove all remaining product.
• Store recyclable containers, such as pop cans, inside.
• Store garbage that can become smelly, such as meat or fish scraps, in a freezer until it can be taken to a refuse site or picked up by refuse collector.
• Take especially smelly or rotting garbage as soon as possible to your local refuse facility so it can be buried.
If bear problems persist after cleaning up food sources, contact a DNR area wildlife office for advice. For the name of the local wildlife manager, contact the DNR Information Center at 651-296-6157 or 888-646-6367, or visit mndnr.gov/contact/locator.html.