DNR: Cleaning up is key to keep bears at a distance

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As more and more people get out and about for the 4th of July weekend, the Minnesota DNR is encouraging folks to be aware that bears have been active too.

Andrew Tri, the DNR’s acting bear project leader, said the dry weather and a late killing frost may be ruining some of bears’ natural food sources.

"What that means later on in July is that we’re probably going to have less berries than we normally would have just due to those two factors," Tri said. "And that can equate to hungry bears."

Bears may turn to human sources then, like bird feeders and trash.

Whether you are camping, picnicking or just having a barbecue this weekend, cleaning up after yourself will help keep the bears at a distance.

"What that means is cleaning up the campfire grates to make sure there’s no grease or anything left on there, don’t burn your trash in the fire, don’t throw food in the fire," Tri said.

And keep in mind that your actions may affect others using a space next.

"If you don’t clean up after yourself, if you leave spilled stuff on the picnic table, that sort of thing and don’t clean up your trash, not only is it littering but also that gets bears used to having trash around and associating people with food," Tri said, "and that’s what we don’t want to happen."

He said while he understands it can be startling to see a black bear, there’s really no reason to be frightened.

"It’s best just to give them their space. We’re all used to social distancing, just give that a lot more space," he said. "Make sure they have an escape route."

If you’re hiking, he suggests going in pairs and making some noise on the trails. And he also said it’s important to keep pets on a leash because the majority of bear attacks that have happened in Minnesota have involved dogs.

For more tips, check out the DNR’s "Living with bears" page or bearwise.org.