A bold young black bear has continued to elude Savage police and DNR officials for nearly a week, venturing near gas stations, crossing busy intersections and causing alarm at an elementary school in its search for food throughout the city.
Most recently, the bear was seen Thursday afternoon behind a Kwik Trip gas station on Hwy. 42 and Vernon Avenue. Its appearance led administrators at Harriet Bishop Elementary School, about three blocks away, to pull all kids inside and ask parents to pick up students who normally bike or walk to school.
The male bear, between 150 and 200 pounds and about 18 months old, was seen several times over the Memorial Day weekend in Savage, including last Friday just south of Town and Country Campground, along Boone Avenue south of 125th Street. After that sighting, police shot and likely wounded the bear because it was so close to campers and their holiday barbecues.
They weren’t able to kill or capture it, and even after another search on Thursday, it was still on the lam.
“From my perspective, he is [a danger to the public],” said Savage Police Chief Rodney Seurer. “He’s looking for food, and he’s looking to mark his territory. We’re definitely still concerned.”
Sightings have been piling up. The bear was seen on Monday, three days after being shot, but it soon disappeared, only to be seen by police at 1 a.m. Thursday, running across the street via the crosswalk at McColl Drive and County Road 27.
“So he was playing it safe,” Seurer said.
DNR officials were near the area of the latest sighting on Thursday afternoon, waiting to see if the bear would reappear. The bear, which Seurer said was likely kicked out of its home by its mother recently, may start roaming again in the evening, he said.
Phil Roush, who lives two blocks from the school and walked over to pick up his first-grader, said he wasn’t too concerned about the bear’s presence, because he has a fenced back yard.
Mark Gray, who also lives within blocks of the school, wondered why police didn’t initially tranquilize the bear. “Bears are more afraid of people than we are of them,” he said.
Seurer said the police didn’t have a tranquilizer gun with them at the time of the campground sighting.
Shooting a bear with a tranquilizer and moving it elsewhere is a common suggestion from the public, but DNR officials say it’s not practical because once bears become accustomed to city life, they keep coming back. Usually, they do try to avoid people.
If citizens spot the bear, Seurer said, they should not approach it, but call police, who will bring in the DNR.
Darlene Emmons of Prior Lake said she saw a black bear cross the street near Hwy. 101 and Hwy. 13 on Monday, in the southbound lane, before it ran into the ditch. “I was pretty freaked out,” she said.
Seurer said he hopes the bear continues to elude police and DNR capture. “I really do,” he said. “I hope he goes back to the area he’s more comfortable with.”
Erin Adler • 952-746-3283