Here’s Why You’re More Likely to Encounter a Bear this Summer in Minnesota
There seem to be more and more reports of black bear sightings across Minnesota than most summers. There's actually a good explanation as to why we are much more likely to see black bears out and about in populated areas this summer. That's because the drought we're currently in is affecting the food that black bears usually eat, so they're going elsewhere for food.
How the Drought is Affecting Black Bears
Right now, the US Drought Monitor for Minnesota says that southeast Minnesota is in a moderate drought. A small piece of Minnesota along the Iowa border is now in a severe drought as of Thursday, June 17th at 8 AM EDT. This lack of rain is compromising the food that black bears usually eat.
The Typical Black Bear Diet and How it's Being Impacted
Minnesota DNR biologist Andrew Tri spoke with Bring Me the News about the black bear's diet. This time of year bears are typically eating "clover, grasses, wetland plants, and insect brood (ants, larvae, etc.)". Then once the berries are ripe enough they switch over to a berry diet. But because of the drought, those plants their usually eating now are in low supply. And the worry is that this lack of food for the bears will continue to be the problem if we don't get enough rain to ripen the berries by their usual time of late June and early July.
Another issue that Andrew pointed out is that because of the frost that we got in May, that also may impact the berries. It "hit right when blueberry plants were flowering, killing the flowers and potentially impacting berry production". He points out this is mainly a problem in the northern part of Minnesota.
The poor bears are hungry and may continue to be hungry if this drought keeps up much longer. So they have discovered our unprotected delicious offerings: bird feeders and garbage cans. That's why people may be seeing more black bears out and about this summer and why we may continue to see them more often.
How to Prevent Bear Conflicts
How do you protect yourself, your family, and your belongings from a bear? There are all sorts of tips offered from the Minnesota DNR on how to prevent bear conflicts. The tips include things like not putting out bird feed between April 1st and November 15th. If you still want to put up a bird feeder, put it up 10 feet high, 4 feet away from the nearest tree, and make sure you clean up spilled birdseed. They also say to make sure to pick food from your garden as it matures over the summer so it's not there for the bear to enjoy and not you.