The black bear is the only species of bear found in Minnesota. Generally, you will find them in heavily forested areas. Black bears are 5-7 feet in length and can weigh anywhere from 150-500 pounds. They follow their noses and use their mental maps of the landscape to locate food sources. Because of this, black bears can travel a fair distance each day along a similar route looking for food.
Black bears usually try to avoid people, but sometimes come in conflict with humans when they eat crops, destroy apiaries, or break into garbage cans and birdfeeders. Along the North Shore, residents usually pull in bird feeders and secure trash bin and compost piles in the summer and fall months to avoid attracting bears. In October of 2017, Cascade Vacation Rentals had it’s own bear rescue happen at our dumpster in Lutsen! That story made international news and was featured by some well-known news outlets including Inside Edition and The Daily Mail.
Then, in 2019, a mama bear and four baby cubs were seen frequently in the Lutsen area! The family often found their way to our dumpsters, luckily they were always able to get back out without assistance! In 2020 we built an electric fence around our dumpsters and the bears have not been seen since. However, reports of bears breaking into dumpsters and even homes are reported every year in the are! It’s important to be bear aware, especially in the late fall as they try to fatten up for hibernation!
Black bears like large forests with an abundance of fruits, nuts, and barriers. They can also be found in lowlands and wetlands with succulent vegetation near pools and streams where they can cool off. Mothers with cubs tend large trees ( like white pines) for bedding sites and refuge for her cubs.
Black bears hibernate in their dens for during winter for as long as six or seven months living off stored body fat. During this time they do not eat, drink, urinate, or defecate. They wake in spring with little loss of muscle mass or strength.
Black bears mate during May-July. Newborn cubs are typically born in January and do not hibernate. The mother provides all their nourishment while she is hibernating. Litters are most often of three cubs weighing about 3 pounds, which by mid-March weigh 5-6 pounds. They leave the den usually in early April and remain with the mother for 17 months, hibernating with her when they are 1 year old. Male bears play no role in raising young, and may even kill the cubs if given the chance.
The Black Bear prefers nuts, acorns, fruit, insects, and succulents greens. Meat and less succulent greens are eaten when preferred foods are scarce.
It’s not hard to spot a black bear along the North Shore. The population here is healthy and some bears have gotten used to foraging for food. Leave a bag of trash outside for the night and you may find yourself cleaning up the trash in the morning (don’t do that!). Take a drive on a remote road or along the Gunflint Trail, and you may just spot on running across the road or hanging out along the treeline.
If you see a black bear don’t fear the worst. Usually, when a bear finds out there are people around, they’ll head for the hills, never to be seen again. Bear attacks are incredibly rare. If you do encounter a bear, remain calm and remember that the bear is likely more scared of you than you are of him. Attacks by black bears on people are very rare and most black bears can be easily scared away with the following approach. Stand and face the bear directly. Never run away from or approach him. Make yourself look as big as possible by spreading your arms or, better yet, a coat. Make as much noise as possible by yelling, banging pots and pans, or using other noisemaking devices. If the bear approaches and you have bear spray, spray the bear as he approaches.