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Welcome to Bear Country

Fri, Jul 13th, 2012
Posted in All Commentary

On the morning of Friday, July 6, the Journal office was buzzing about the black bear discovered at the Fillmore Central Elementary School. No, it wasn’t someone dressed in a bear costume. That did cross my mind, initially.

This was the real deal. A black bear was slowly meandering about the football field, baseball field and soccer field. Apparently, a bit of sports fan, maybe even a Falcons fan, this black bear was heading up towards The Branding Iron for lunch. I don’t blame the furry black bear for seeking a fine dining experience within the confines of air conditioning.

I was upstairs at the SMG Web Design office when I received my first text regarding the black bear at the school. By the time I scrambled to the bottom of the stairway to the Journal office, Gabby Gatzke and Jade Sexton were already out the door with a digital camera hot on the trail of our furry friend.

I also jumped in my vehicle and headed in the same direction. I contacted members of local law enforcement to see what they knew. I soon found out that everyone was looking for this elusive black bear. It made a guest appearance just long enough to draw attention and then disappeared into the woods behind The Branding Iron. I figured the Preston Golf Course patrons should know there may be a black bear heading their way, so I headed to the club house.

Along with a few golfers, I was greeted by the course and clubhouse manager Jay Harstad. I told Jay about the black bear sighting, and said, “Oh yeah, the bear was up on hole number four yesterday.”

“What? Are you serious?” I said.

“Yeah, Tim Bremseth was coming up on green number three and noticed the bear when he was about 30 feet away. When he exclaimed to his golfing partners that there was a bear, it took off, climbing through the barbed wire fence and off into the pasture.” explained Jay.

OK, it’s not every day that you see a black bear in our region, let alone on a golf course. What kind of club do you use for that hazard?

Fortunately, Kelli Jo Dornink was quick enough to capture a photo and video of the black bear in motion on the Fillmore Central practice fields, which has gone viral with Facebook. Thanks Kelli Jo! We have included the same video she captured from that sighting with my commentary appearing online at www.fillmorecountyjournal.com in the commentary section, in case you missed it on Facebook.

It was funny when I picked up Olivia and Landon, our children, at the Fillmore Central daycare and SAC program, and they were telling me all about the bear outside their school. They were pretty excited. On the car ride home, I told them that maybe Fillmore Central would need to change their mascot from the Falcons to the Bears. They didn’t like that idea, so I guess we can strike that for any future consideration.

We all know how hot we were with those record-breaking temperatures in the high 90s. Now imagine wearing a fur coat throughout all of that exhausting heat. My guess is that was on the mind of that poor black bear. And, just like with my black car, I’m sure that dark fur attracts heat like a solar panel. I can’t imagine a hot and bothered black bear is a happy bear.

What’s most interesting about our recent black bear sightings is that nobody can really tell how many there are. One day, we’ll hear about the black bear visiting the Canton area, as noted in my recent commentary with the photo captured on the camera of a cell phone of an Amish person riding in their horse and buggy. Then, another day, we’ll hear about the elusive black bear appearing in Northeast Iowa. Next, Peterson, then the northern tip of Spring Valley, and back in Preston again. There’s no way one black bear could be so well-traveled.

This black bear has some friends on the move.

Of course, there are many rumors about where these black bears are coming from, and I think it is important to dispell as much rumor as possible.

First, in a phone interview with the DNR, they have indicated they have not moved nuisance bears down to this region for a long time. They have stopped moving nuisance bears from northern Minnesota to southern regions of the state because those bears just seemed to become nuisance bears elsewhere. So, these are not nuisance bears dropped off in our region by the DNR.

Second, a few years ago, I read an interesting article in USA Today about the number of black bears in the United States. Minnesota was ranked first with over 30,000, Montona was second with 20,000, and California was third with 10,000. So, we have the largest population of black bears of any state in the U.S.

Third, hunters throw their names in the hat to hunt black bears up in northern Minnesota in what can be best described as a lottery permit system. In 2010, hunters killed roughly 5,000 black bears in Minnesota, and an estimated 2,200 in 2011. But, did you know that in our part of this great state, according to the DNR, it’s open season year-round for hunting black bears? Yes, but you still need a no-quota permit. So, put down your Smart Phone with the 10 megapixel digital camera and pick up your loaded .280 Remington. We’re goin’ on a bear hunt – we’re gonna catch a big one!

Lastly, there’s talk that these bears are swimming across the Mississippi from Wisconsin in search of mates and a new territory. Of course, I can’t help but think that these bears are leaving Packer country to be closer to good, wholesome Viking fans.

Who knows what’s going on with all of these black bear sightings in our area? Maybe Russ Dahlke is right. As Russ said in his post on Facebook in response to Gabby Gatzke’s announcement about the black bear sighting at Fillmore Central, “I don’t know why everyone is worried. It’s obvious with the heat going on and the lack of rain that they are just on patrol for forest fires.”

Clever. And, who knows, he may be right.


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2:28:20, Jul 18th 2012

Thomas Hobbes says:
A very humorous post, Jason. It was very enjoyable to read. If I may use some of your words to describe a very similar event in the past, but from the bear's point of view? All in jest of course.

On a morning that seemed like every other, the forest was abuzz about the two legged hominids walking through the forests. No, it wasn’t one of the natives that are darker skinned and light on their feet. Rather, this fellow was much lighter skinned, wore funny looking cloth fur, and carried a long and heavy boomstick.

Now, this may scare the cubs a bit, but this really happened. A white hominid was meandering about the meadow, near the streams, and then into the woods. Perhaps he was prepared to splash in the river. After all, the river is cool and clean and a great place to catch a snack.

I was on the knoll near the big oak tree when a hawk cawed at me, alerting me of this strange hominid’s presence. By the time I pawed over to the den to let the cubbies know, Picinic and Winnie were already scrambling out to get a good look.

I chased after them towards the sighting as well. On the way I roared into the forests and into the meadows, wondering if any of the other wildcats, deer, wolves, eagles, rabbits, or turkeys new any information.

I ran into a family of raccoons down where that tree was struck by a great flash from the thunderstorm last year. I asked them if they knew anything about this white fellow. You wouldn’t believe what they told me! “Sure Smokey, he and a few others were hanging around Wile E.’s den yesterday. We don’t know if that coyote got out of there or not, not heard from him yet.”

“Are you serious?” I asked.

“Oh sure,” said the momma raccoon. “Little Meeko was chatting with one of the native hominid girls when the newcomer showed up. But he didn’t stay long, just chopped down the giant willow tree then headed back from where he came from.
Word is, this lighter skinned hominid has some friends and they’re moving this way. Of course, what the old owls say at night can just be bearsay, but who knows? There is even talk that these hominids are using giant floating metal and wood devices to go up the rivers! Can you believe that?”

My mind was buzzing with all this information. New and different hominids in these forests and meadows? Wile E. gone? The old willow cut down? Big floating things in the rivers with more on the way? It sounds like an adventure, but some how I have this feeling that it may not turn out so great for our kind in the long run. Who knows? Perhaps we’ll all share this land with the newcomers.