There are black bears in Minnesota. Although their distribution has recently expanded into more central regions and even urban areas, the majority still live in the north. Bears are a common problem for local hikers and outdoor enthusiasts on trails and at campsites, but where are Minnesota’s most bear-infested locations this winter? Let’s find the seven areas where you are most likely to come across a black bear.
How Many Bears Are There In Minnesota?
Black bear country is Minnesota. Although this iconic species generally inhabits the northern woodlands, bears can be found in Minnesota wherever that is peaceful and has bear-specific food and shelter. Though they will come out of hiding to consume crops and attack bins or campsites, these magnificent animals are drawn to wetlands and deep forests.
According to experts, there are about 24,000 black bears in the northern states nevertheless, black bears are also making their way into the agricultural areas of central and southern Minnesota. Anyone who sees a black bear is asked to report it to the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).
1. Chippewa National Forest
The DNR has been keeping an eye on Minnesota’s north central Chippewa Forest black bear population since the 1980s due to its large population. It is a central region for black bears with excellent habitat.
The DNR is in charge of 660,000 of the 1.6 million acres that make up the Chippewa National Forest. The remainder are owned by private individuals, the state, and tribes.
More water than any other national forest in Minnesota may be found in this forest, which is vital for all wildlife, including black bears. Nearly 1,000 streams and 1,300 lakes offer habitats, food, and drink.
Even though there are many bears in this area, they are rarely seen except along paths and close to campgrounds. Although attacks are relatively rare, there has been a recent spike in black bear sightings reported from the Rocky Boy reservation.
2. Superior National Forest
The Superior National Forest covers three million acres in northeastern Minnesota.Its borders are Lake Superior, Canada, and Voyageurs National Park. Lakes and streams cover 445, 000 of its three million acres. The remainder is a breathtaking combination of spruce and pine forests, rugged terrain, Eagle Mountain, the highest point in the state, the Misquah Hills, and vast stretches of boreal forest.
The Superior National Forest is home to amazing species, including as black bears, moose, deer, and grey wolves. The primary causes of human-bear encounters in this area, particularly in the Agnes Lake and La Croix/Cook areas and north of Gunflint Trail, have been observed to be food and trash.
3. Voyageurs National Park
218,055 acres Voyageurs National Park is a famous location for black bears. This untamed outdoor area is filled with wetlands, lakes, streams, woodlands, and rocky outcrops. It is characterised as a location where the landscapes of land and water meet.
Here, you can come across bears around campgrounds and on trails. 2019 saw the death of a black bear somewhat to the north of the park. Although fatal bear encounters are rare, they serve as important reminders that wild bears should never be approached.
4. Polk County
The largest bear ever captured in Minnesota was just captured in Polk County. Ben Genereux hunted and killed a black bear in September 2022, measuring 21 9/16 inches in the head. This muzzleloader harvest record belongs to Minnesota.
Minnesota’s Polk County is situated in the northwest. It is most renowned for Maple Lake, which has ideal habitat for black bears and is encircled by a sizable sugar maple forest.
5. Grand Portage State Forest
Northeast of Grand Marais is where Grand Portage State Forest is located in northeastern Minnesota. It includes the Grand Portage Indian Reservation’s vast black bear habitat, which includes rivers, forests, and marshes. It also borders the Superior National Forest.
Kim Heil-Smith’s experience with a black bear on her driveway stands out as one of the most remarkable black bear encounters in the vicinity.
6. Boundary Waters Canoe Area Wilderness (BWCAW)
BWCAW, which is located in the centre of the Superior National Forest, is home to the greatest number of American grey wolves and is one of Minnesota’s bear-heavy areas.
A well-liked destination for campers, kayakers, and fishermen, BWCAW spans 1,090,000 acres and is home to woods, lakes, and streams. The Pow Wow Trail, Border-Route Trail, Snowbank Trail, and Sioux-Hustler Trail are a few of the more frequently travelled routes. Any of these pathways could lead to a black bear encounter.
The DNR lists Clearwater, Rose, Duncan, Alder, Moon, and Caribou Lakes as bear hotspots in BWCAW.
7. Pillsbury State Forest
John Pillsbury, a previous governor of Minnesota, bequeathed 1,000 acres of land to the state, inspiring the name Pillsbury State Forest. It is situated in central Minnesota’s Cass County.
The forest is abundant of water features, rocky patches, and deep forests that provide excellent habitats for species. Grey wolves, bald eagles, white-tailed deer, wild turkeys, and black bears roam beside them. Hikers and kayakers are also drawn to it, which has resulted in a few black bear encounters—one of which left a lady slashed when the bear became agitated by her dog.
Minnesota DNR Bear Advice
The state of Minnesota has released guidelines for coexisting with bears because the state is bear country. The fundamentals consist of:
Bears should never be fed since it encourages them to approach people.
Remain together as a group and keep kids close.
Dogs must always be leashed in Minnesota state parks, per park regulations.
Make occasional sounds to help bears avoid coming into contact.
Clean caught fish and double bag food before leaving the camp.
Food, trash, or clothing used for cooking should not be kept inside your tent.
When you see bear-proof garbage cans, use them.
Camp far from natural food supplies and dense woodland lines.
If you see a bear, or one approaches you in Minnesota, here’s what the DNR suggests:
Avoid approaching it, remain motionless, and move on.
Never flee, as this could set off a hunting reaction.
Remain firm. Bear spray should be used if the bear continues to approach as you wave your arms and yell, “Hey bear,” or pound pots and pans together.
Never give up and constantly defend yourself when attacked.
Bear Hunting In Minnesota
Bear hunting is permitted on most state lands in Minnesota as long as one has a licence. Without them, poachers face heavy penalties and jail terms because the DNR closely controls the number of bears in its area.
Permits are granted in June after a lottery held in April for one bear per hunter within a certain area. From September 1 to October 15, when hunting is permitted, hunters are asked to refrain from taking shots at tagged bears that are the subject of current research.