Denning bear moved into new digs

A female adult black bear got a new place to spend the winter earlier this week.
The Ministry of Natural Resources, Town of Fort Frances, and district contractor James O’ Sullivan—backed by the OPP—relocated the sow, which had been found dozing in the east end of town.
“The bear was discovered Sunday evening in the east end of town,” noted town bylaw enforcement office Dave Egan.
“Basically, what had happened is some children were playing hide and seek, and found a place they thought was great hiding spot but it was a bear den,” he added.
He said the bear—a 350-pound sow—had made its den behind homes in the Kaitlyn Drive subdivision. It consisted of a clump of fallen willows, with earth clawed out beneath them, and then packed with dried grass.
The children’s parents called the police, who, in turn, contacted the town bylaw department, which then contacted the MNR on Monday morning.
MNR area supervisor Linda Wall noted the MNR had to decide what to with the bear, which was groggy and irritable, as could be expected, but not a clear threat.
“The big thing is we didn’t want her waking up there hungry in the spring,” she said, adding the fact the children and their families now knew about the location of the sleeping bear was another risk the MNR just wasn’t willing to take.
So the MNR contacted O’Sullivan, who is under contract to deal with “problem bears.” He then got to work building a den about 70 km east of town to move the bear to for the rest of the winter.
With the new den—made from the root mass of a blown-over tree and then covered with boughs—ready by the end of the day Monday, authorities then tranquilized the bear Tuesday morning and transported it to its new digs.
“The bear wasn’t completely in hibernation mode yet, but it was very close,” said Egan. “It couldn’t stand or anything like that.
“Everything went well. We moved it up to the den that was made for it—probably a nicer den than it was in,” he added.
“I don’t think we would have done anything differently,” said MNR area technician Cameron Trembath, echoing the entire process went smoothly.
Wall and Trembath both gave O’Sullivan a lot of credit for his work making the den, which looked remarkably like the one the sow had made itself.
Wall said she thought the den looked like a “warm and cozy place to be for the winter.”
“We’ll go back and check in on her,” added Trembath.
No people were hurt by the bear during the incident, nor was the bruin when it was transported.
Egan noted this is the first time he’s encountered a sleeping bear in his years as a bylaw enforcement officer here.
“This is very unusual,” he remarked. “Not to say, with the amount of bears coming into our community now, it couldn’t have been one that was a nuisance in that particular area late last fall.
“It was a large bear, and it was found in right where there were a lot of problems,” he said.
Wall said the MNR here has had to build dens for wayward young bears in the fall and winter in the past, but has never encountered one denning in town limits.
“Unfortunately, this really shows that bears are being too comfortable being in town and being around people,” she said, stressing this was a perfect example why the public must discourage bears from coming into town looking for food in the summer and fall.
Wall noted the bear, like all bears that are caught by the MNR and then released in the wild, was tagged and will be monitored.

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