Ely Residents Take Precaution To Enjoy Black Bears

By KBJR News 1

August 30, 2011 Updated Aug 31, 2011 at 8:37 AM CDT

ELY, MN (Northland's NewsCenter)---The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources is investigating several complaints about aggressive black bears on the Iron Range and is urging the public to use extra caution if they see a bear.

The DNR has asked North American Bear Center Director Dr. Lynn Rogers to work with them to find ways to prevent future bear and human conflicts.

Several people have reported threatening black bear behavior near Ely in the last couple of weeks.

Many say the aggressive bears are wearing collars showing that they're part of research being conducted by the North American Bear Center.

Dr. Lynn Rogers says most people in the Ely area know how to react to bears.

"Most of the residents have been squared away about bears," Rogers said. "They hike the trails, they have their kids running around in the woods, they see bears, but its not a problem. You know, they know bears and they know they aren't the ferocious animals that are usually portrayed."

Rogers says part of the problem stems from a shortage of berries and other natural foods this season. He says bears are scrambling for food and looking in areas close to where people live.

"When there's not enough food the bears come into town because that is where the food is," Mayor Roger Skraba of Ely said. "We have timberwolves tearing our garbage apart. It's all about interaction and how our people get educated. They are here, get used to it."

Seeing bears on a daily basis is something the Hutchinson family has gotten used to. By taking simple precautions, they are able to enjoy the bears in their natural habitat.

"We make sure our yards cleaned up, we don't leave food laying around for them, we keep our grill clean, so we don't have an issue," Lisa Hutchinson of Ely said. "They've never hurt any of us, or any of our household or exteriors,"

"We don't go up to them because we don't want to get hurt or anything, but they aren't dangerous, they are really nice and stuff," Cierra Hutchinson said. "June, she is really nice with her cubs, and its fun to see the bear with her babies."

If you are approached by a bear, DNR officials say its best to back away slowly.

If a bear refuses to leave, make loud noises or throw something to scare it away.

The DNR urges the public to report any aggressive bear behavior to a local conservation or state patrol officer.

Any bear that poses a threat to public safety can be removed by local enforcement under DNR policy.

Posted to the web: Jennifer Walch
jwalch@northlandsnewscenter.com