Hibernating bear saved after getting stuck in melting snow near Roseau, Minn.
Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials on Monday rescued a bear that had been stuck in a northern Minnesota ditch for at least several days.
Department officials said the nearly 400-pound bear had apparently been hibernating in a culvert and been forced out by melting snow. The bear wound up in deep snow beside a road and agricultural fields near Roseau, Minn., where passersby saw it.
In a Facebook post, the DNR said it sent a bear biologist to help and he discovered evidence that people had tried to dig out the 6- or 7-year-old bear and feed it. The biologist found a box of Pop Tart pastries, a head of lettuce, a dead sucker minnow, cat food and Swedish Fish candy at the scene.
The DNR said bears typically don't eat in the winter, so this bear hadn’t snacked on the offerings.
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Department officials responded to the site on Sunday evening and blocked off the road. On Monday morning the DNR’s bear project leader Andy Tri arrived and found a “half-excavated bear looking right at me in the culvert” with a “basketball-sized head with big round ears.”
“It was clear he had some snow and ice kind of frozen to his coat as they sometimes do when they’re in the open. He was not going anywhere anytime soon. They had to give him a little poke with a long pole — usually that will get a bear moving if they’re just kind of resting — but definitely not in this case,” Tri said.
Officials gave the bear anesthesia, began digging him out and found he had almost made it out of the culvert himself but had gotten his right leg stuck in hard-packed snow and ice.
It took five people including a local land owner to lift the bear out, Tri said.
The team decided to take the bear to a state game sanctuary nearby “to let him relax and recover,” Tri said.
“We built him a small artificial den that’s representative of the kind of dens we see in northwest Minnesota. A lot of the bears den above ground in nests similar to what you’d see for Big Bird on ‘Sesame Street’: They’re these big piles of cattails or any sort of grasses and that sort of thing.”
Bears usually wake up from hibernation in April, Tri said.
“Local people in the area definitely had good intentions for trying to put food out for this poor, stuck bear and we really thank them for caring about this critter, but if ever this situation comes around again where you have a bear in distress, give DNR a call,” Tri said. “We have trained professionals to handle this and we wouldn't want somebody to get injured when they're trying to help a critter out.”