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Outdoor articles about black bears, hunting reports and other Minnesota and US field sports.

2017 Minnesota Black Bear Hunting Report II

posted Sep 26, 2017, 7:29 AM by John Hedstrom   [ updated Sep 26, 2017, 7:30 AM ]

RED LAKE

Bear-hunting reports have dropped way off.

Mort’s Dock (218) 647-8128

BLACKDUCK AREA

Bear-hunting success and participation have dipped a bit.

Timberline Sports and Tackle (218) 835-4636

GRAND MARAIS AREA

Bear hunting has dropped way off.

Buck’s Hardware (218) 387-2280

GRAND RAPIDS AREA 

Bear hunters continue to see decent activity during legal shooting hours.

Ben’s Bait and Tackle (218) 326-8281

LAKE KABETOGAMA

Bear hunters continue to find success.

Gateway Store (218) 875-2121

MORA AREA

Bears have been less active at baits.

Jerry’s Sport & Bait Shop (320) 679-2151

Vehicle hits and kills 200-pound bear in Twin Cities suburb

posted Sep 26, 2017, 7:25 AM by John Hedstrom

By Paul Walsh Star Tribune
 
SEPTEMBER 26, 2017 — 7:07AM

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A police officer and a bear that was fatally run over in Corcoran.
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A 200-pound bear was run over and killed during the night in the Twin Cities suburb of Corcoran, authorities said Monday.

A passerby alerted police after sunrise Sunday of the mortally wounded bear near the road at the intersection of Maple Hill Road and County Road 10, located in a rural area of the northwest metro community of 5,700 or so residents.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) was contacted and responded to the scene. The DNR officer who answered the call estimated the bear to be two- to three-years-old.

Police have yet to locate the driver who hit the bear, said Chief Matt Gottschalk.

“Bear sightings are uncommon in Corcoran,” police said in a statement accompanied by a photo of the dead animal with police officer Josh Hunter. The animal had a distinctive white “V” on its chest.

“If you see a bear on your property, do not approach it,” the statement continued. “Bears will typically avoid people but sometimes come into contact with humans when trying to get into garbage cans or bird feeders.”

Gottschalk said his department hopes to have the bear mounted and displayed for use in educating young hunters on identifying species. The meat, the chief added, was not salvageable for human consumption.

2017 Minnesota Black Bear Hunting Report I

posted Sep 11, 2017, 6:14 AM by John Hedstrom   [ updated Sep 11, 2017, 6:16 AM ]

RED LAKE

Bear hunters are finding some decent success.

Mort’s Dock (218) 647-8128

BEMIDJI AREA

A few bear have been shot, but a big acorn drop has started to limit activity at baits.

Taber’s Bait (218) 751-5781

BLACKDUCK AREA

Bear hunting success has been very good and overall activity at baits has been strong.

Timberline Sports and Tackle (218) 835-4636

CROSBY AREA

The start of bear season went well with a lot of activity at baits and good success.

Oars ‘n Mine Bait and Tackle (218) 546-6912

DULUTH AREA   

The bear season is off to a strong start with a bunch of average-size bears being taken.

Chalstrom’s Bait (218) 726-0094

EAST CENTRAL MN

A few bears were shot in the area’s no-quota zones.

Tales and Trails Sport Shop (763) 856-3985

EMILY AREA 

Bear hunter success has been very good, and many people commented that they have had multiple bears at their bait.

Redding Sports and Spirits (218) 763-2191

GRAND MARAIS AREA

Bear hunting has been OK with an average number of bears registered during the first few days of the season.

Buck’s Hardware (218) 387-2280

HACKENSACK AREA 

Most bear hunters are reporting active baits and decent success.

Swanson’s Bait and Tackle (218) 675-6176

PARK RAPIDS AREA

Bear reports have been limited.

Delaney’s (218) 732-4281

Smokey Hills Outdoors (218) 237-5099

STAPLES/LITTLE FALLS AREA

Bear hunting reports have been limited.

Da Fishin’ Hole (320) 631-0056

 

Minnesota's overall bear shortage a paradox amid soaring hunter success

posted Sep 6, 2017, 8:29 AM by John Hedstrom   [ updated Sep 6, 2017, 8:30 AM ]

Shortage of natural foods causes the animals to make themselves obvious. 

By Tony Kennedy Star Tribune
 
SEPTEMBER 4, 2017 — 12:01AM
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MARK THIESSEN, ASSOCIATED PRESSA black bear and cub.

This year, too, looks promising for hunters. So many bears were openly roaming the woods last month around International Falls that Battalion could report on their density without the aid of trail cameras. The 2017 season opened Friday with Battalion and other outfitters in the northern tier of the state saying bear sightings have been plentiful.

The season runs through Oct. 15.

“When I’m driving by bears on my four-wheeler, it’s like they’re waiting for me’’ to drop bait, Battalion said. “Our baits are getting hit well.’’

But in a paradox that belies the recent ease of bear hunting in Minnesota, the actual abundance of the animals is historically low and state game managers are holding hunters back from killing more. Over the past two decades, Minnesota’s population of black bears has plunged steeply, from 25,000 to an estimated range of 12,000 to 15,000. Tighter hunting restrictions have aimed, without much luck, to reverse the trend.

Some outfitters interpreted last year’s record kill rate of 50 percent (in quota-restricted zones) as a bounce-back in bear numbers. But Dave Garshelis, the top bear biologist and researcher at the state Department of Natural Resources, provided a different interpretation: Bear behavior was altered by a shortage of natural foods, he said, such as acorns, wild hazelnuts and dogwood berries. Plus, fewer hunters under a lottery-controlled permit system had less competition attracting bruins.

“They were very vulnerable last year,’’ Garshelis said. “They were easy to bait.’’

Instead of relaxing quotas for 2017, the DNR tightened them. With natural food supplies again in short supply this year, Garshelis is relieved to have taken a conservative approach.

“It appears you could, through baiting, really wipe out the bear population very quickly,’’ he said.

Frustration grows

Battalion said plenty of hunters think the DNR is underestimating the size of the bear population. They’re frustrated by a lottery system that grants 75 percent fewer licenses than a decade ago. Applicants are waiting four years in some zones to get a tag.

“I think they could loosen it up a little,’’ Battalion said.

State Rep. Tony Cornish, R-Vernon Center, has heard some pleas from bear hunters to expand the harvest. But the former game warden said he won’t second-guess the DNR’s estimates of the bear population. Visual observations and anecdotal evidence are no match for the computer modeling and other science mastered by Garshelis over many years of study, Cornish said.

“Everyone would love to see more permits, but if we err … ,’’ Cornish said.

A member of the House Environment and Natural Resources Policy and Finance Committee, Cornish spent much of Friday in a bear-hunting stand near Northome, armed with a compound bow. At least two big bears had visited his bait station on the eve of the opener, according to a trail camera.

“Seems like there’s a lot of bear and not an overabundance of food in the woods,’’ Cornish said.

Bear-hunting guide Lynnette Hischer of Willow River said this year’s cooler weather has stimulated bear activity around her bait sites on private and public land north of Hinckley. She agrees with observations that natural food sources are thin for the second year in a row, but weather and hunter expertise will play the biggest role in hunter success, she said.

Garshelis said it took a while for the state to recognize that Minnesota’s bear population had crashed. Hunting is by far the biggest mortality factor for the animals, and the agency made big downward adjustments in issuing hunting permits in quota zones for 2011, 2012 and 2013. In 2010, 9,500 permits were issued in the restricted zones, compared to 3,850 last year.

This year, the DNR cut the allotment to 3,350 licenses, believing that too many bears were killed in 2016.

“As soon as we drop the quotas, hunting success goes up,’’ Garshelis said.

Surprising spillover

Moreover, with all the pent-up demand to harvest a bear in quota zones, there’s been a spillover of bear hunters trying their luck in “no-quota’’ areas where anyone can buy a license over the counter in any given year.

The no-quota areas ring the state’s core bear habitat, starting with Pine and Chisago counties in the east and rolling counterclockwise to Roseau and Kittson counties in the far northwest. Garshelis said that’s where some of the state’s biggest bears live in patches of berry-filled woods surrounded by corn crops, sunflowers and oats.

Garshelis said there were nearly as many permits drawn last year for the no-quota areas as there were for the more traditional quota-controlled zones — a first. In fact, a record high harvest in the no-quota areas contributed last year to the highest statewide bear harvest in six years — 2,641 bears.

New this year is a stronger emphasis on enforcing a law requiring successful hunters to submit a bear tooth sample for age analysis. Game managers want to know how the harvest is being distributed across age classes.

When the age of harvested bears declines significantly, as it has in Minnesota, it’s an indication that the overall population is dropping, Garshelis said. In 2016, half the male bears taken here were either 1 or 2 years old. Half the female bears were age 3 or younger, meaning they never matured to reproductive age.

Garshelis said Minnesota bear hunters are in for an extended era of harvest limitations because the overall bear population will take years to recover.

No population goal has been established, he said, “but another 5,000 bears would be nice.’’

Bear research: Getting to the teeth of the matter

posted Aug 8, 2017, 1:54 PM by John Hedstrom   [ updated Aug 8, 2017, 1:56 PM ]

August 7, 2017

Associated Press


The nationwide population was more than 400,000 in 2008, 
which is most likely double the population in 1900, and it 
has expanded even more in the last nine years, said Lynn 
Rogers, a bear expert with the North American Bear Center
in Ely, Minn. (YouTube)

BRIDGTON, Maine — Carolyn Nistler is at the forefront of a boom in a resource that plays a key role in the management of American wildlife: bear teeth.

Nistler, owner of a Montana lab, and others are sorting through a windfall of teeth taken from American black bears, which use their powerful jaws to crush hazelnuts and chew salmon flesh. The growing population of the bears in the United States has scientists sorting through thousands more teeth, which are important to get a handle on the health of America’s bruins.

“Populations are growing,” she said. “We’ve increased facilities to accommodate so turnaround time isn’t longer.”

States use bear teeth for research about metrics such as how old the animals were at the time they died, which can be an indicator of how healthy bear populations are. The teeth are most often harvested from bears killed by big game hunters, who seek the burly animals for sport all over the country. Some are also taken from roadkill animals.

Nistler owns Matson’s Laboratory in Manhattan, Montana, which processes the most teeth of any lab in America. The lab contracts with state wildlife departments and processed nearly 260,000 black bear teeth from 2009 to 2016, up from less than 220,000 from 2001 to 2008, according to data provided by Nistler.

A growing bear population has created more hunting opportunities, which leads in turn to more bear teeth for researchers, Nistler said.

Indeed, the tooth boom comes as the black bear population is expanding in many states, especially in East Coast states like Maine, where the population has grown from 30,000 in 2010 to more than 35,000 now according to state wildlife managers. Bear populations are also growing in Massachusetts, New Jersey and elsewhere. Black bears live in 41 states.

The nationwide population was more than 400,000 in 2008, which is most likely double the population in 1900, and it has expanded even more in the last nine years, said Lynn Rogers, a bear expert with the North American Bear Center in Ely, Minn.

Bear populations have increased as people have learned to live around the animals, which are mostly skittish around humans, Rogers said.

“As attitudes change, they are coming back,” he said. “They just go about their business of foraging.”

Jennifer Vashon, a bear biologist with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries & Wildlife, said the growing number of teeth will provide state wildlife managers with important data, as analysis of the teeth is a way to get an idea of how many young bears there are in states. Hunters in Maine, who pursue the animals over bait or with hunting dogs in the state’s vast wilderness, are required to remove a tooth from every bear they kill.

The teeth are sectioned and viewed under a microscope, making it possible to determine the age of the bear by counting rings similar to those on a tree stump, Vashon said.

“Another benefit of collecting teeth is providing information to the hunter about the age of the bear they harvested,” she said.

Nistler and Vashon both said the volume of teeth isn’t resulting in an unmanageable backlog of teeth, but it does require a lot of work. The lag time between submitting teeth and getting the results is typically about eight or nine months, Vashon said.

The lag causes some anxiety among hunting guides, who rely on updated wildlife data as part of their work, said Don Kleiner, executive director of the Maine Professional Guides Association. At the same time, guides understand that processing thousands of teeth takes time, he said.

“I hear some complaining from my guys that they don’t know about the bears from a year ago,” Kleiner said. “But 3,000 teeth have to be segmented and looked at under a microscope.”

Lured by household trash, bears on move in Colorado towns

posted Jul 25, 2017, 10:46 AM by John Hedstrom

July 24, 2017

BOULDER, Colo. — Black bears are on the move in populated areas, causing problems in cities and towns up and down Colorado’s Front Range, and activists say improperly stored household garbage is a big part of the problem.

Authorities have killed around three dozen bears causing problems in Colorado this year. No bears have been removed or killed in Boulder this year, but there has been plenty of bear activity in and near town lately, the Boulder Daily Camerareported.

One bear spent the better part of a day in a tree downtown. Another bear entered a campsite and bit a man while he slept.

“We’re just waiting for a crisis to happen,” Brenda Lee of the Boulder Bear Coalition told the City Council recently. “That’s either going to be a person getting hurt or a bear being put down.”

Overturned garbage cans are a sure sign bears are active, she said.

Lee is an advocate for enforcement of the city’s bear-safe ordinance, which requires bear-resistant containers for trash and compost bins.

“It seemed like things were going fine,” she said. “But I’m seeing tons this year that I didn’t see last year – cans knocked over, looking down alleys where you see three or five cans that have trash strewn out from them.”

Between 2003 and 2015, authorities killed or removed 40 black bears causing problems in Boulder. City officials have stepped up garbage-storage enforcement, handing out $250,000 in fines over the second half of 2016.

Bear Spray VS. Bullets: Which offers better protection?

posted Jan 18, 2017, 10:44 AM by John Hedstrom   [ updated Jan 18, 2017, 10:44 AM ]

Colorado Parks & Wildlife

At first glance, this question may seem like a no-brainer. After all, aren’t guns made to kill, while pepper spray (so-called “bear spray,” when it comes in big cans) does not?

Unlike an attack by a human assailant, who may be able to use your own weapon against you, that safety/survival argument for using pepper spray doesn’t apply to a human-bear encounter... or does it?

When it comes to self defense against all bears, the answer is not as obvious as it may seem. In fact, experienced hunters are surprised to find that despite the use of firearms against a charging bear, they were attacked and badly hurt.

Evidence of human-bear encounters even suggests that shooting a bear can escalate the seriousness of an attack, while encounters where firearms are not used are less likely to result in injury or death of the human or the bear. While firearms can kill a bear, can a bullet kill quickly enough -- and can the shooter be accurate enough -- to prevent a dangerous, even fatal, attack?

The question is not one of marksmanship or clear thinking in the face of a growling bear, for even a skilled marksman with steady nerves may have a slim chance of deterring a bear attack with a gun.

Law enforcement agents for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service have experience that supports this reality -- based on their investigations of human-bear encounters since 1992, persons encountering grizzlies and defending themselves with firearms suffer injury about 50% of the time. During the same period, persons defending themselves with pepper spray escaped injury most of the time and those that were injured experienced shorter duration attacks and less severe injuries. Canadian bear biologist Dr. Stephen Herrero reached similar conclusions based on his own research -- a person’s chance of incurring serious injury from a charging grizzly doubles when bullets are fired versus when bear spray is used.

Awareness of bear behavior is the key to mitigating potential danger. Detecting signs of a bear and avoiding interaction, or understanding defensive bear behaviors, like bluff charges, are the best ways of escaping injury. The Service supports the pepper spray policy of the Interagency Grizzly Bear Committee, which states that bear spray is not a substitute for following proper bear avoidance safety techniques, and that bear spray should be used as a deterrent only in an aggressive or attacking confrontation with a bear.

Like seatbelts, bear spray saves lives. But just as seatbelts don’t make driving off a bridge safe; bear spray is not a shield against deliberately seeking out or attracting a grizzly bear. No deterrent is 100% effective, but compared to all others, including firearms, proper use of bear spray has proven to be the best method for fending off threatening and attacking bears, and for preventing injury to the person and animal involved.


Duluth, social media go wild over black bear in tree downtown

posted Nov 3, 2016, 5:52 AM by John Hedstrom

Officials hoped the bear, caught on video, would come down on its own, but that's hard to do downtown, they say. 
By Mary Lynn Smith Star Tribune
 
NOVEMBER 3, 2016 — 12:49AM
itemprop
WDIO-TVA bear became quite the tourist attraction on Wednesday morning, Nov. 2, 2016, after it was spotted in a tree in downtown Duluth. A small group of people gathered during the morning to take pictures.
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When it comes to bears, Duluth police hope that what goes up will come down.

A black bear wandered into downtown Duluth on Wednesday, high-tailed it up a tree and quickly became a social media darling as crowds gathered to snap photos and videos, including the one below posted by Dan Kraker of Minnesota Public Radio.

Bears often wander through the city’s many wooded areas, said Chris Balzer, Department of Natural Resources area wildlife manager based in Cloquet.

Sometimes a hungry bruin will make its way into a neighborhood, enticed by food in garbage cans and bird feeders.

But a bear downtown is a little more unusual, he said.

“The biggest thing is for people to leave it alone and it will come down on its own and move off,” Balzer said.

It’s harder for that to happen downtown because there are too many people around, he said.

Once people go home for the night, the bear likely will scamper down and away.

576-pound black bear among largest in Wisconsin

posted Oct 17, 2016, 11:02 AM by John Hedstrom

Outdoornews

October 13, 2016 

by Dean Bortz

Grantsburg, Wis. — Even as Ricky Danielson and his fellow hunters on Sept. 24 dragged a 576-pound bear 600 yards to some machinery, Wisconsin bear hunters were closing in the DNR’s 2016 bear harvest goal of 4,750 animals.

On Sept. 29, the DNR had a preliminary count of 3,817 registered bears, according to Dave MacFarland, of Rhinelander, the DNR’s bear ecologist.

On that same date, the DNR also reported that wolves had killed a record 37 dogs so far this year, with seven more dogs injured.

576-pound bear

Danielson, of Grantsburg, has been bear hunting since age 10 or 11. Friends of his family, got him started bear hunting with hounds and he’s been hunting bears ever since.

Danielson has drawn three harvest tags over the years. This third tag went on the 576-pounder (field dressed) that he shot in Zone D in Burnett County. The bear was weighed at the Burnett Area Co-op in Grantsburg. He hunts with the Crex Meadows Bear Hunters group that is headed up by Jerry Burton. The group includes many of Burton’s family members and friends.

The big bear never showed up on a trail camera, but group members saw its tracks at several bait sites.

That day the group had four other hunters with kill tags.

“I just was the lucky one in the right spot at the right time,” said Danielson about a long day of bear hunting that began about 7:15 a.m. and ended about 4:30 p.m. when he shot the bear.

The big boar never treed and never stopped walking. The group started the track with three dogs. The track headed into a big swamp that Danielson said is about three miles by five miles. There are no roads through the swamp. Danielson said the closest the bear came to any road was .6 of a mile – and that’s where he shot it.

Throughout the day, any of the five hunters with kill tags tried closing on the bear in wet, nasty cover.

“It’s a bad swamp. I was up to my waist in mud and water most of the hunt,” he said. “He just stayed in the middle of the swamp and hopped from island to island.”

The dogs bayed up the bear a number of times throughout the day on those swamp islands. Each time, a tag-bearing hunter tried wading in close enough for a clear shot.

“The first time he stopped I got about 100 yards, but the bear caught my wind. We started pushing it north. Then another couple of hunters came in and got to a bay up, but the bear busted out again,” he said.

Later in the day, Danielson was circling around the swamp on the west side when the bear bayed up again about 400 yards away. That time Danielson got to within 10 yards of the bear.

“It was too thick, but saw it was a big bear. Then it picked up its head, and I was able to shoot it in the chest,” Danielson said.

Danielson used a .45/70 Marlin lever action rifle loaded with Remington 300-grain Core-Lokt bullets.

That bear was the group’s eighth bear of the season, and the biggest bear so far. Next biggest was a 462-pounder (live weight) that field dressed at 412 pounds. “I passed that one up in a tree a week prior. I knew we had a bigger bear around,” he said.

Group members joined forces to drag the bear about 600 yards across state land to the edge of private land where farmers let them borrow a John Deere Gator to ferry the bear out of the woods and onto the trucks.

This is Danielson’s second bear. He didn’t fill his first tag; on the second tag he shot a boar that dressed at 315 pounds. That bear was also shot on ground.

The dogs included two Plotts, a redbone and three Walkers. Once the first three dogs started the track, two dogs were added. When one dog tired and left the run, they added two more dogs.

Bear tally

MacFarland expects the Sept. 29 preliminary harvest of 3,817 bears to continue climbing through the seasons. The bait season closed Oct. 4 in zones A, B and D. The seasons close Oct. in Zone C and for hound hunters in the remaining zones.

“We are about where we’d expect to be at this point,” he said.

The state’s record bear kill was set in 2010 with 5,133 animals. In 2012, hunters registered 4,646 bears. The 2015 kill was 4,198.

MacFarland said hunters who shot bears last year will begin getting postcards on ages (from last year’s tooth samples) in early December.

MacFarland said Wisconsin bears have reached age 30, but most are much younger. Females have averaged 4.6 years; the males around 3 years old.

“Most bears will be less than 12 years old, there will be a handful in the upper teens and a couple in their 20s. Once or twice in the last 40 years we have had a bear older than 30 years,” he said, adding that the long term average age for both sexes has been pretty stable.

He said a bear that had been collared every year since it was first collared in 1984 in northwestern Minnesota finally died a year or so ago. It was more than 30 years old when it died.

Dogs killed

As of Oct. 4, 40 dogs have been verified as being killed by wolves, with another seven dogs injured.

MacFarland said that number sets an annual record with 21⁄2 months still left in the year.

Those are losses that have been verified by USDA Wildlife Services staff. Other dogs might have been killed by wolves, but those deaths couldn’t be confirmed by Wildlife Services based on the evidence left at the scene by the time the dog was found and Wildlife Services arrived.

The previous high was 23 verified dog deaths in 2013, with 20 in 2014 and 22 in 2015.

Why the increase this year?

“It’s hard to say – anything is speculation. There are more wolves on landscape. We could have more hound hunters on landscape. Hopefully that number will be lower next year,” said MacFarland.

Some have suggested that doing away with the Class B pursuit tag in July 2015 is bringing more nonresident hound hunters to Wisconsin this year, so MacFarland could be correct in suggesting there are more hounds in the woods this year.

“There is no way of knowing since there is no license requirement. The only thing we can track is number of dogs killed that are owned by residents or non-residents,” he said.

Through Sept. 29, seven of the 37 dogs that had been killed to that point were owned by non-residents.

In 2015, one dog owned by a non-resident was killed by wolves; there were none the year before.

The non-resident Class B pursuit tag used to cost $149 per person.

Three more dogs were added to the verified kill list on Oct. 4: a Plott hound killed on Oct. 1 in the town of Winter, Sawyer County; a second Plott killed in separate attack – also on Oct. 1 and in the town of Winter; and a redbone killed on Oct. 1 in the town of Knight, Iron County.

MN State’s bear harvest on pace for steep increase

posted Oct 4, 2016, 10:18 AM by John Hedstrom

September 29, 2016 

by Javier Serna

BlackBear.jpg

Grand Rapids, Minn. — Across the state, in every zone, bear hunters have done better than last year, according to preliminary data provided by the Minnesota DNR.

It’s too soon, however, to assume the bear population has increased significantly, said Dan Stark, the DNR’s large-carnivore program leader, who said a lack of natural foods in the forest this year likely is driving harvest numbers.

On Tuesday, Stark tallied bear registrations through Sept. 26, at which point 2,409 bears had been registered during the seasonthat got under way Sept. 1. At the same point last year, 1,725 bears had been registered.

“We’re 40 percent higher than last year’s harvest,” Stark said.

When there is a lack of natural foods to eat, it sends bears more frequently to bear baits, where hunters await and enjoy better success.

“It sounds like in most areas there haven’t been a lot of acorns, and that’s a pretty important fall food for them,” Stark said. “I think all of the information we have during the season is somewhat preliminary until we do the final summary this winter. But there was definitely higher success this season than the last three, with a similar number of permits.”

Stark believes 90 percent of the harvest likely is complete, and expects the final tally to fall between 2,600 and 2,700 animals. The season ends Oct. 16.

The lack of available natural foods was suspected to be the case in several northern Minnesota locales, as nuisance-bear complaints continued past the point in early summer when those foods become available.

“We have had a pretty active nuisance-bear season that continued into the summer and even into the bear season,” said Erik Thorson, the DNR’s Park Rapids area wildlife manager.

And that was even with decent late-summer berry and hazelnut production, Thorson said. “There’s wasn’t enough out in the woods for them. Usually when the berries start, the nuisance complaints fall off.”

He noted that acorns were noticeably absent.

Thorson suspects the bear population in his area has been growing the past two years, based on anecdotal evidence.

“There’s more sign in the woods,” he said. “A fair number (of people) saw triplets.”

Dave Rave, Thorson’s Bemidji-area counterpart, also saw a consistent number of nuisance-bear complaints come in since spring.

Rave said his area’s hunting zones, which were subdivided this year, probably saw an increase in harvest by one-third.

“The bear hunting was quite good this year,” Rave said, also suggesting that bear numbers are up.

“They are really, really healthy,” he said. “There was some lack of natural foods. I don’t think there were as many acorns this year, which really changes bear behavior during the season.”

But Rave said the consistent nuisance complaints and many reports of sows with twins and triplets leads him to believe the population is increasing.

Scott Laudenslager, the DNR’s Baudette-area wildlife manager, said bear harvest was up by about 25 percent over last year, despite a pretty decent berry crop.

“We’re building the population,” he said of lower permit numbers the past several years. “We could be seeing the results of that.”

In Two Harbors, Nancy Hansen, the DNR’s area manager there, said the first two weeks of the season saw most of the hunting activity. “My understanding is it’s been a very good season,” she said. “It seemed like there were more bears around, with bears out during the day.”

Hansen’s area, which includes Lake County in the state’s Arrowhead region, did have a fair amount of natural foods, she said.

At the tip of that region, in Cook County, bear-hunting guide Jim Wallner, based in Grand Marais, said he had an excellent season, with 11 of 16 clients getting bears, and all of them at least seeing one.

In his area, he said, natural foods were plentiful, and there were still a lot of bears hitting bait. In fact, he said his trail cameras showed that he had bears at all 41 bait stations.

Wallner was encouraged by the number of bears in the 100- to 150-pound range that he and his clients saw. One harvested was more than 250 pounds dressed, and one approached 300 pounds.

“These cubs have been getting kicked out the last couple of years,” he said. “The future looks bright.”

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