With a black bear attack blamed for the death of a woman just across the border, we urge calm and vigilance.
Our hearts go out to the family of Catherine Sweatt-Mueller, Maple Plain, who lost her life in a place it’s likely she and her family had loved and where they created memories for years.
And we, along with wildlife officials, urge people to familiarize themselves with bear behavior and to continue to be vigilant about your own behavior to avoid bear problems.
Living with bears isn’t new for Borderland, where bear hunting season started Sept. 1 and ends Oct. 13.
And it’s not uncommon for our local conservation officers to include in their weekly reports their handling of nuisance-bear complaints and, in season, checking on bear hunters. All three local officers, Darrin Kittelson, John Slatinski and Shane Zavodnik, reported they did just that this week.
Andy Tri, a wildlife research biologist with the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Bear Research Program, offered some tips and reminders that people should use to avoid bear problems.
“Despite this tragic situation, yes, this is an unfortunate reminder that we are coexisting with wild animals and should take precautions,” Tri told The Journal this week. “My heart and sympathy goes out to the victim’s family and the community on Rainy.”
And while it may be easy to blame the bear for this tragic incident, we must also remember they are wild animals and need to be treated as such.
Clearly, and fortunately, these kinds of incidents aren’t common, as Tri noted. He said there have been no fatalities from bears in Minnesota, however noted there have been eight attacks that have resulted in serious hospitalization, and one of those involved a sick bear. In addition, he said just one of these attacks would be classified as predatory, where the bear actively sought out and stalked humans.
Tri notes that part of the solution is removing food sources, which is especially attractive to bear now as they put on weight for the winter. How many of your neighbors leave their garbage cans out at night, when you or your children might pass by potentially surprising both the humans and a bear with their head in a trash can?
Part of the reason many of us live here is the opportunity to see wildlife, including bear. But with that opportunity comes the responsibility to yourself, your neighbors, your pets and the area’s wildlife to do all we can to avoid dangerous encounters with wildlife.