Belle Plaine resident Mark Brennhofer got a big surprise when reviewing the footage on his wildlife camera. A large black bear was seen roaming around the woods on his property just after midnight on August 15 near County Road 3 and Highway 19 in Belle Plaine.

Brennhofer, who’s lived there for about 20 years, has never seen a bear in the area before and was very surprised to see it. Brennhofer’s neighbor, Hannah Yahnke, shared the footage on Facebook to alert others in the area which prompted over 250 shares. Yahnke said so far the bear hasn’t been a nuisance, as her chicken coop hasn’t been pushed in since the sighting.

According to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, black bears are found mainly in the northern third of Minnesota but have been slowly expanding southward and westward into agricultural zones to feed on corn and other crops for subsistence. Black bears typically live in forests, swamps and other areas with dense cover but will wander into clearings to feed.

The DNR is asking the public’s help to document this expansion. If you see a black bear outside of their primary range (primary range is shown in black on the map below), please report the information using the DNR’s form at https://www.dnr.state.mn.us/hunting/bear/bear-sightings.html. Your name and contact information will not be made public. The DNR will not respond to nuisance complaints submitted through the form.

If you require assistance with a nuisance bear, contact your local Wildlife Manager at 952-496-4141, ext. 257 for Scott and Carver counties, or 507-225-3572 in Sibley, Le Sueur and Nicollet counties. To reach a Conservation Officer about questions and concerns, call 800-652-9093.

The public viewing portion of the map for sightings is turned off during bear baiting and the hunting season (mid-August through mid-October), but sighting submissions are still encouraged. All sightings are stored and displayed publicly once bear hunting season ends.

The DNR recommends that residents keep yards free of attractants, such as birdseed and bird feeders, pet food, garbage, livestock feed, or compost. Officials suggest that if you come in contact with a bear to leave it alone and let it pass through.

There are estimated to be 12,000-15,000 black bears in Minnesota and hunting is their main source of mortality. Minnesota hunters harvest an average of about 3,000 black bears annually. This year a total of 3,400 licenses were available in 13 permit areas for the 2019 six-week season, open from Sunday, September 1, through Sunday, October 13.

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