A resident in eastern Carver County had a curious experience a couple weeks ago: a bear had wandered into their front yard. The bear was captured on their doorbell camera, and with the image making its way around the internet, a few people are probably wondering what to do if this happens to you. In light of the incident with the wolves in Anoka, the bear in Carver, and the cougar sighting last year, it’s time to learn what you should do if you spot a large, and possibly dangerous, animal.
The most important aspect to understand about the large predators of Minnesota is that all are very skittish around humans, even something as large as a bear. They have no interest in actively harming humans. Incidents where they do aren’t even hunting most of the time, but instead defensive behaviors. These can still do a lot of harm, so it’s recommended to stay away from any large predator and not make any sudden movements if they are close.
So, what do you do if you go out to get your morning newspaper and there’s a black bear sniffing around your front yard?
“Bears are not always a threat,” said Dan Stark, Large Carnivore Specialist at the DNR. “If you make a loud noise, they’ll probably run away.”
Stark continued, stating that if the bears snaps its jaws, barks, or stomps on the ground, it’s showing threatening behavior, mostly to tell you to go away. In that case, back away slowly until you are back inside and safe. Wait for the bear to leave, maybe while testing to see if a loud sound will make do so faster. The same can be said of other large predators.
According to Stark, most of the time when someone sees a bear, they are simply wandering through, especially in the springtime. Fresh out of hibernation, bears are looking for food, and they will go anywhere they can smell it. Frequent victims of their wanderings through areas with people are bird feeders and trash cans. If there is a confirmed bear in the neighborhood, the best thing to do is to remove these sources of food and keep them inside a secure place like a shed or garage. Without food to eat, the bear will move on in search of greener pastures, so to speak.
Stark emphasized that if a bear were to climb a tree, that’s the point where it really needs to be left alone.
“They climb when they think they’re in danger and need to get to safety,” he said. “Once they feel safe, they’ll come down and move on.”
So while it’s tempting to snap a photo or video, it’s recommended to leave the bear be. As big as they are, they’re already frightened if they choose to climb a tree. Leave them alone, and they’ll leave you alone.
As for cougars, according to Stark, these big cats are more unique.
“Minnesota doesn’t have an established population, especially this area,” he said. “Most that are coming through are males in search of new territory or a mate. We haven’t seen a female or kittens born here.”
The one sighted in Bloomington last year was just that; a male cougar finding a new home. As such, it wasn’t a sign of an increase in population, so cougars aren’t that much of a concern. In the rare event one is spotted, keep an eye out for tracks and watch pets when they are outside.
The last large predators are wolves. Though not often seen this far south, packs can swing this way in search of food. According to Stark, pack territory can span 60 miles, unlike a coyotes 10 miles, so wolves don’t tend to stay put.
While what happened in Anoka was a unique circumstance, it’s important to remember that wolves are very skittish. More than likely, you will never see a wild wolf even if a pack lives nearby and patrols the area for food on occasion. Instead, you’ll see signs such as large footprints and maybe an old meal. Wolf howls are also loud and distinct, completely different from coyote yips.
Just like with bears, once the pack or stray determines there’s no food, they move on. What this means for residents is largely the same: Don’t leave out food for them to eat, keep an eye on pets if you’re aware there’s a pack in the area, and do not interact with them if spotted aside from making noise to scare them off.
Of course, every species has problem children. Perhaps you have a bear that won’t leave and is desperate enough to destroy property, or a wolf pack preying on your livestock since they can serve as an easy meal. In this case, you contact the DNR who come and remove the problem. This is a last case scenario, as the DNR doesn’t relocate animals. However, this is a rare circumstance, since as previously stated, most animals don’t want to live around people, unless people provide food in some way.
So the next time you spot a bear or other large carnivore, remember that it wants nothing to do with you, make some noise, and stay inside until it leaves. Make sure there’s no food for it to eat, and the problem will solve itself since it’s just wandering through. For anyone looking for even more information, visit https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/ to learn about the DNR, what they recommend, and plenty of other information about Minnesota wildlife.t