A bear problem you can’t put a lid on

A bear that has been spotted around the Ely area with a garbage can lid has been able to evade live traps set by the Minnesota DNR.
The problem however, may lie with the bear being fed either on purpose or inadvertently through bird feeders.
DNR wildlife manager Tom Rusch of Tower said, “Bear feeding is the root cause of all of this. And this is Ely’s future. This scenario of human tolerant habituated, nuisance bears, bears without fear of people not acting normal in some people’s point of view and perfectly normal in someone else’s.”
He gave a scenario of two neighbors having opposite reactions to a bear in the yard.
“There’s nothing illegal but it sets us up for one neighbor against another and creates a huge drain when the DNR has to get in the middle of it somehow. You don’t want it but your neighbor loves it,” said Rusch.
He said many of the issues of bears being fed have to do with people providing food when there is plenty for the bear to eat in the woods.
“Around 95% of my nuisance calls are bear calls and two-thirds to three-fourths can be traced to bear feeding or bird feeding, the others are garbage. We preach to remove the attractant. That is very sound advice but they want me to remove the bear. We have not trapped bears since the 90s because it doesn’t work, they return.
“Some people think they are feeding squirrels and birds but they are feeding wildlife from raccoons to bears. These critters become tolerant of people and this bear has really showed us.
“This bear is one we’ve been trying to capture for three weeks. Darting it is not a good option. That is not a good option for this bear.
“Hopefully we can capture and we’re actively trying. It’s a male with a huge range. Even when we remove the thing around its head, it’s still a human tolerant bear that’s going to do this the rest of its life.
Rusch said the DNR does have a plan for this bear.
“If captured, we will drug it, remove the item and then release it,” he said.
The DNR does not have plans at this point to dispatch the bear.
“Our protocol is there is public safety we’re protecting, usually that’s imminent threat. If it’s coming through the screen door for instance. Walking through the yard, showing non-wild behavior it’s not property damage.
“The key is changing their behavior of feeding their stomach with bird feeders and garbage.”
The problem is likely to get worse of having bears coming into areas where humans are instead of living in the woods.
“This is our future. If we are going to feed bears this is what we have to tolerate. Half love it and the other half just want the bears to be wild.
“Right now plenty of bear foods. This is either purposeful bear feeding or black sunflower seeds which bears love. It should say bird and bear food on the package.
“If we have a public safety threat that’s where we’re going dispatch that bear. Right now this bear is not a public safety threat. This bear does lay on people’s decks for hours. It’s incredibly mobile. It’s a very healthy, glossy coat. It’s moving in one day from Birch Lake to Mitchell to White Iron it’s doing very well.”
Rusch doesn’t believe the bear is being harmed. He said the collar doesn’t appear to be rubbing on the neck. He added the trap was set right after the first phone call was received.
Also following the situation closely is a resident who does wildlife rehabilitation for the DNR.
“This unfortunate animal got his head stuck through a garbage can lid and has not been able to rid himself of this ‘adornment.’ I’m not part of the DNR nor am I speaking for them,” said Heather Flikke in an online post.
“I am a licensed wildlife rescue/rehabber and I would like to share what I know and hopefully answer some questions about this particular animal.”
Flikke offered this advice:
Why can’t someone just tranquilize the bear?
• The DNR doesn’t have a tranquilizer dart gun. The closest person that has this equipment is several hours away. Even if the call was made immediately upon spotting the bear, most likely he will have moved on before the person and tranquilizer got to his location.
• The bear seems to be healthy otherwise and has been logging on the miles between areas. One day he is spotted at Garden Lake, the next day at Birch Lake and two days later he’s on Mitchell Lake, continually traveling.
Dangers of tranquilizing without trapping the bear first:
• The weight of the bear must be carefully figured/guessed, something that is done much easier in the trap. Darting the bear outside of a trap is the last resort. The medicine is very potent, if too much is given it may kill the bear and if too little is dosed the bear may still be mobile and very unpredictable, hurting a human and/or himself while the metal lid is being removed.
Things the DNR has done to date:
• The trap has been set three different times on three different weeks.
• Multiple foods have been used to lure him into the trap. Donuts to corn to soft cat food have been tried. He has even been seen inside the trap but won’t trigger it shut.
• He’s healthy and trap smart which makes him harder to trap.
“I truly know the frustration and sadness that comes from seeing an animal in need of help and not getting it immediately. The DNR is working to help this bear and remove the garbage can lid. If you spot this bear please report it to the DNR wildlife at 1-218-300-7800,” wrote Flikke.