A Minnesota Department of Natural Resources official says he doesn’t know why a black bear part of a state research project traveled to Canada this winter.
But he had to enlist the help of the Ontario Ministry of Northern Development, Mines, Natural Resources and Forestry to locate and monitor the bear.
On March 4, Minnesota Department Bear Project Manager Andrew Tri traveled to the woods near the town of Atikokan in northwestern Ontario, where he worked with resource personnel to check the bear’s GPS collar, count her cubs (she has three) and take measurements to assess her health.
“I’m a little jealous,” Tri said of the bear’s foray into Canada.
“I was looking forward to crossing the border and fishing a little.”
The Tri Department has been researching the bear population since the early 1980s, he said.
His current study explores how they respond to declining berry production in their habitat.
The bears seem to be fine, he said. But one thing their research revealed is that animals migrate long distances to track food and prepare for winter hibernation.
“This bear was just migrating southwest, which is very similar to what other bears are doing,” he said. “But then she turned around and decided to head for brighter pastures across the border.”
The bear was likely unaware of Canada’s COVID-19 entry requirements and probably didn’t use the ArriveCAN app, Tri joked.
“There’s not a lot of signage where she crossed,” he said. “But certainly television reception, [notifying] people of these requirements are not very good in this part of Minnesota. So I guess she just didn’t get the message.”
Ontario ministry staff provided the anesthetic needed to calm the bears, Tri said, which spared him the complicated process of arranging to get him across the border.
Their visit to the family revealed the bear was in relatively good condition for an animal that had been through a poor feeding season, he said.
It’s extremely unusual for a bear to leave its home range and migrate 200 kilometers north, Tri said.
Research suggests that bears follow environmental cues, such as scents, on their migration routes, he said.
The animal may have been following the scent of a Canadian bear that had traveled across the United States and then returned home.
If the bear chooses not to return to Minnesota in the summer or fall, Tri said, researchers will find her one more time, remove her GPS collar and “discard her as a Canadian bear.” .