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Bear Season Ends - UPDATE October 17, 2021

Braveheart - May 2012 - by Jim StronerBraveheart - May 2012 - by Jim Stroner

It’s 6:43 PM. Bear season ends at 6:44, which is a half hour after sunset. Hunter pressure around here was light. In the first few days of the season, a small bear was taken across the street, and a hunter who usually hunts 3/4 of a mile away got two, possibly three adolescents. We don’t know who any of these 3 or 4 bears were, but none of them were the bears we know well and have been following for years. Then the nearby hunters disappeared. With the scarcity of natural food, baits would have been unusually attractive, and we had feared the worst. We have never seen as many bears as we saw during the last two years of drought and food failure. The DNR has been hoping to increase population which stands at less than half what it was a couple decades ago. Last year’s (2020) food failure and high kill likely did the same to the population we saw in a similar food failure back in 1985—high starvation among cubs and yearlings and mothers unable to maintain pregnancies. Now came the second year of food failure that stretched far up into Canada and bears traveling far in search of feed. They also were pushed out of large areas by forest fires. For the first time ever, bears were here coughing up blood and thick phlegm. Bears came in skinny with small cubs. Diversionary feeding was very effective in keeping these bears out of trouble and alive. We are thankful for all the help from you.

Last fall (2020), we lost 18-year-old Braveheart who will be the subject of a chapter in the book. When she was killed, everything fit that it was her, but we wanted to be absolutely sure by seeing if she might show up in 2021. She did not. I remember our final meeting before she moved to her denning area where she was killed by a hunter. We sat together like we’d never been apart. I put my arm around her. She sat calm and still. I squeezed my hand down between her foreleg and chest to get her pulse which was always the slowest I’d obtained, but she had a full layer of fat and I couldn’t get it. I would usually then feel the femoral artery, but I couldn’t reach it the way she was sitting. I hadn’t seen her for some time and am glad for this final memory of her trust. Another favorite memory is from over a decade ago when I was with a newspaper reporter and photographer and trying to home in on her telemetry signal. Braveheart knew my voice and would usually let me approach, but with the two strangers, she slipped away over and over without a sound or a glimpse. Finally, after about two hours of cat and mouse, she held for me and came out of the underbrush. The photographer then took my favorite picture of her as she ignored me taking her pulse as she scanned around for any danger. I hope the newspaper lets me use it for the book. The whole incident was an education for the newspaper crew whose support I have appreciated ever since. Braveheart, at 18, had lived longer than most bears in Minnesota, contradicting a widely held misconception that gets many bears killed and prevents coexistence across America. The misconception is that black bears that lose fear of people become more likely to cause nuisance problems and attack people. Consequently, such bears are killed to protect the public and to avoid liability problems for wildlife agencies. Braveheart never attacked anyone and had not even had a nuisance complaint filed against her.

Big toothed AspenBig toothed Aspen Quaking AspenQuaking Aspen

On this 17th day of October, most of the red maples have dropped their beautiful red or yellow leaves, and the prettiest leaves I see falling now are reddish leaves like the ones in the picture from big-toothed aspens. Quaking aspen leaves, meanwhile are turning yellow and beginning to fall. The most striking yellows are seen when the sun shines through those leaves as in the other picture. .

Thank you for all you do.
Lynn Rogers, Biologist, Wildlife Research Institute and North American Bear Center

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