School children have enough to worry about – algebra tests, the trials of teen love, and weirdos with assault rifles who wish to slaughter them. In tiny Clearbrook, Minnesota (pop. 518), you can now add bears to the list.
The Clearbrook-Gonvick School District issued a warning this week, asking kids not to walk to school. A female black bear and her two cubs were spotted just 150 yards from the school, which sits northwest of Bemidji. Conservation officers believe the bears had just emerged from hibernation, and that the mom might be the same bear spotted near the school last year.
Clearbrook Police Chief Dan Gazelka caught the bears on camera in a nearby culvert, posting a note on Facebook:
“We DO live in bear country.... To anyone that has children walking home from school just to be aware how close these bears are to the school and talk to your kids about never approaching a baby bear because mama is always close by.”
There are an estimated 12,000 to 15,000 bears in Minnesota, only half the number roaming the state in the 1990s. The DNR blames a dwindling supply of acorns, wild hazelnuts, and dogwood berries.
Still, bear attacks are exceedingly rare. There have been just six requiring hospitalization since 2002. The last was in Isabella in northeastern Minnesota, when a black bear attacked carpenters working on a lake home. The men were able to chase it off, and nobody was seriously hurt.
Because the bear had missing hair in a ring around its neck, suggesting it once wore a collar – and the attack came during hibernation season in December – the DNR believes it may have been domesticated at some, and was merely seeking food or hoping to play.
Yet the threat does remain, especially from a mom who senses a threat to her cubs, and is fully capable of clawing off your face.
Conservation officers in Clearbrook believe the animals have moved on. But as a precaution, the track team has rerouted its practice away from where they were last spotted. Getting mauled likely wouldn't portend a winning season for the Clearbrook-Gonvick Bears.