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Minnesota Nature Wildlife

American Black Bears in Minnesota

One of my favorite Minnesota “locals” are American Black Bears!


Black Bear

There are many misconceptions about Black Bears. People who don’t know any better fear them, thinking that they are out stalking unsuspecting hikers or campers for an ambush attack. In reality, they are pretty timid creatures who go out of their way to avoid encounters with people. I’ve been fortunate enough to volunteer with an expert Black Bear researcher in the past and even got to go into a den (with mama bear still in it – she was tranquilized for the duration). I’ll never forget holding cubs that only weighed 3 pounds and didn’t have their eyes open yet. Let’s get to know them a little better 🙂

Black Bear Cub

Black Bear Facts

For a much more comprehensive list of facts about Black Bears, check out the North American Bear Center site.

  • Black Bears in Minnesota hibernate for 5-6 months out of the year. They typically call it a year by late October and emerge from their dens some time in April.
  • During hibernation, their heart rates go down to approximately 8 beats per minute and their breathing is almost imperceptible.
  • They will lose about a third of their body weight during hibernation – mostly fat. Lactating mothers will lose a bit more, while males and non-lactating females a bit less.
  • They do not eat, urinate or defecate during hibernation. Any other mammal would die of kidney failure, but they are somehow able to break down metabolic waste products with no ill effects.
  • Their total cholesterol will climb to over 400 mg/dl during hibernation, while their blood lipid profiles are similar to a healthy human during the summer. No evidence of heart disease.
  • They give birth to their cubs in January. The cubs are born hairless and weigh less that a pound at birth. Dr. Lynn Rogers installed a camera within a wild Black Bear den several years ago and captured a live birth on video, dispelling the myth that cubs are born while the mother bear sleeps…. lol. You can view it here.
  • Once cubs emerge from their dens, one of the first things their mother teaches them is how to climb trees.
  • You will not out run or out climb a Black Bear!
Black Bear Cub Climbing a Tree
Black Bear cub doing what Black Bear cubs do best: climbing a tree 🙂

Where to see Black Bears

Black Bears are common residents of the North Woods and like the forest. I’ve seen them crossing roads in the Superior National Forest on several occasions, walking next to the highway in St. Louis county, running away from me on hiking trails, and had one that stood up on it’s hind legs to get a better look / sniff at me before it calmly turned around and walked away.

Black Bear Cub Sleeping in a Tree
There are few things in this world cuter than a Black Bear cub sleeping in a tree.

If you want a guaranteed sighting of wild bears, the Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary near Orr allows visitors to view bears from an observation deck in the woods. Volunteers at the sanctuary put out natural foods for the bears to eat, luring many wild bears to the grounds. The bears are free to come and go as they please and are not captive in any way. You can learn about how and why this all started by checking out the history. Whether it’s a good idea to continue the practice of feeding the bears is a separate argument.

Black Bear Mother and Cub
Mother and cub checking out some food being offered at Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary.

If you really want to learn from the bear experts, check out the North American Bear Center near Ely. They have several captive bears on site, but the founder did much research with local Black Bears for many years and has first hand knowledge of original studies that had never been done by anyone else. They also have a very educational website!

Black Bear Photos

All of these photos as well as several more are now available for purchase in the Wildlife Gallery! All products are printed using archival inks and materials. Choose from prints, gallery wrapped canvases, or metals.

Bring some North Woods wild into your home or office today!

Categories
Minnesota Nature Wildlife

Wild Bison in Minnesota

Did you know that as of September 2015, Minnesota has two herds of wild bison?

Bison Moody Sky

Wild Bison History

At one time it is estimated that millions of bison roamed much of North America; from the forests of Alaska to the grasslands of Mexico, from the Great Basin in Nevada all the way to the eastern Appalachian Mountains. But by the late 1800s, there were only a few hundred bison left in the United States after European settlers pushed west, reducing the animal’s habitat and hunting the bison to near extinction. Had it not been for a few Native American tribes and intervention by the Dept. of the Interior, bison would be extinct today. Yellowstone National Park is the only area in the United States where bison have lived continuously since prehistoric times.

These magnificent animals are the largest mammal in North America. Bulls can weigh up to 2000 lbs and stand 6 feet tall, while the cows are about 1200 lbs and reach a height of 5 feet. Calves (aka “Red Dogs” because newborns are orange-red in color) are born in the spring and weigh anywhere from 30-70 lbs at birth.

Bison Calf

Wild Bison in Minnesota

Bison once thrived on the tall grass prairies in western Minnesota, but have been completely eliminated from the wild. Our two “wild” herds at Blue Mounds State Park and now Minneopa State Park are contained within the confines of the park and are heavily managed. There is simply not enough grassland to support the herds, so their diet is supplemented during the winter months. They also receive vaccinations for pink eye during the fall round-up. Today, bison are found in small, fragmented populations and are unable to roam free across the nation due to human land-use. As a result, several small herds of genetically pure bison are managed as one large herd,  so new genes can be added to populations every time bison are removed and added to the various herds during roundups.

Blue Mounds Bison Double Exposure
Blue Mounds Bison Double Exposure

Pure Wild Bison

Approximately 95% of bison living today have beef DNA in their genes because of crossbreeding with cattle at some point in their lineage. The Minnesota DNR and Minnesota Zoo are working to preserve the pure bison species. The wild bison herd at Blue Mounds State Park is one of the most genetically authentic herds left in the US! In September 2015, eight cows from Blue Mounds and three from the Minnesota Zoo were released at Minneopa State Park to create a new wild bison herd. Three calves were born there last summer and a new breeding bull from Teddy Roosevelt Nat’l Park will be introduced to that herd. Four cows at the Minnesota Zoo have also been impregnated with embryo transfers from Yellowstone bison to further expand the genetics, with hopes that one of those offspring (to be born this spring) is a male that will become a breeding bull here in Minnesota.

bison in pond

Where To See Pure Bison in Minnesota

Blue Mounds State Park in the southwest corner of the state near Luvurne. There is a bison ranch that sits adjacent to the park, so the animals you see off to your right when you enter the park are NOT the wild bison herd! Best opportunity to see the “real deal” is by hiking along the Western Loop Trail at the south end of the park.

Minneopa State Park allows passenger vehicles to drive right through the enclosed bison range, but you are not allowed to get out of your car. I’ve had bison walk right next to my car when I’ve been there – close enough that you feel like you can reach out and touch them. (Don’t). There are also hiking trails all along the outside of the bison range, or you may be able to spot them from the Seppmann Mill overlook.

Minneopa Bison

Minnesota Zoo along the outdoor Northern Trail. You’ll also see Prairie Dogs and Pronghorn Antelope in the same general area.

Categories
Landscape Michigan Minnesota Nature Special Offer Uncategorized Wildlife Wisconsin

New In the Photo Gallery for June

I’ve added a few more images to the photo gallery just in time for Father’s Day gift shopping!

New images of Bald Eagles, Moose, Walleye (yes, underwater), Mallard Ducklings (also under water), Monarch Butterflies, Flowers, Waterfalls, and more! Something NEW in each photo gallery to choose from 🙂

Save 20% on metals or canvas ’til June 21, 2015 – but don’t wait! Get it NOW so that your gift gets there in time for Father’s Day 🙂

Coupon DAD2015

Categories
Abstract Black & White Landscape Macro Michigan Minnesota Nature Special Event Wildlife Wisconsin

Take Dad to the North Woods for Father’s Day

I added a few new goodies to the gallery just in time for Father’s Day!

Walleye

Walleye – before you catch ’em!

Ideally, you’ll be able to take your Dad to the North Woods and experience it first hand for yourselves: tromping through hard woods or tall pine forests, fishing or boating one (or more) of the thousands of pristine lakes, relaxing next to a spectacular waterfall, camping under the Northern Lights…. you get the idea.

Willow River Falls

Willow River

But if you can’t, the next best thing would be to give a gift that makes him feel like he went! Choose between photo prints that you can frame yourself, or canvas or metal prints that come ready to hang. Your order can be drop shipped anywhere in the US, so all you have to do is select the image you’d like to send to Dad and we’ll take care of the rest!

Yearling Moose Pair

Yearling Moose Twins

Go to the gallery and ORDER NOW to be sure it gets there before Father’s Day. Use coupon code DAD2015 to get 20% off any size canvas or metal. Offer expires June 21, 2015.