Wednesday, February 1st, 2023
Wednesday, February 1st, 2023

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As baiting begins, bear food beginning to bloom

Joe Albert

Associate Editor

Tower, Minn. – Just as bear hunters can begin setting out bait
for them, bruin-related nuisance complaints are decreasing across
much of the state.

While natural food growth this year is behind its usual
schedule, things are beginning to ripen.

“Our bear complaints have dropped off pretty good in the last
couple of weeks,” said Rich Staffon, DNR area wildlife manager in
Cloquet. “I think that has to do with the natural foods finally
kicking in, so the bears are shifting to those.”

Said Tom Rusch, DNR_area wildlife manager in Tower: “This is the
first week I’m not getting bear complaints. We were waiting forever
for those to stop.”

The abundance of natural bear foods generally is correlated
closely with how well the animals come to hunters’ baits. Hunters
can begin baiting on Aug. 14; the bear season opens Sept. 1.

Before last year’s season, DNR officials reported an abundance
of natural foods and predicted hunters might have a difficult time
luring bears to their baits. Hunters ended up killing 2,135 bears,
which was the lowest kill since 2002.

This year, fewer permits are available than last year – 10,000,
which is the lowest number since 1994, when 9,400 were
available.

Following are reports on the abundance of natural foods from
area wildlife managers around the state:

€ There has been “virtually nothing” as far as nuisance
complaints in the Aitkin area, and food abundance seems to be about
average, according to Dave Dickey, area wildlife manager.

Red oak acorns look good, and there are some ripe raspberries,
he said. Blueberries look about average.

€ In the Bemidji area, most foods are a couple of weeks behind
where they typically would be, said Shelley Gorham, the area
wildlife manager.

However, the abundance of raspberries is “great,” and “other
than that, everything is looking average to poor so far,” she
said.

Pincherries and chokecherries aren’t ripe yet, but abundance of
them could be average or above average, Gorham said. Later-ripening
foods haven’t ripened yet.

“There will be some competition (for the hunter), certainly,”
she said.

€ In the Cloquet area, June berries looked good, and the
pincherries now are looking good, Staffon said. Raspberries are
about average, but there isn’t a real good crop of blueberries.

Hazel nuts are good in some scattered locations.

It’s “not a bumper crop of most bear foods, but not a bust,
either,” Staffon said. “It’s kind of average to maybe a little
better than average year for bear foods.”

€ June berries, chokecherries, and pincherries appear to be in
“pretty tough condition,” in the Grand Rapids area, said Perry
Loegering, the area wildlife manager.

He’s seen some red oaks that have fair numbers of acorns, and
some areas with good abundance of hazel. The blueberries are late
to ripen and small, but can be found.

“We had such a late spring and a cold spring that a lot of those
berry blossoms really didn’t fare well,” Loegering said. “I can’t
see that there is an overabundance of foods, but (bear complaints
have dropped off), so they must be finding some stuff out
there.”

€ Cherries seem to be above average in the Tower area, and
blueberries are about average, Rusch said.

Raspberries are average; acorns are average to above average;
and hazel is about average, he said.

As baiting begins, summer foods still will be available, “so
they are going to be competing for that,” Rusch said.

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