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Bear wandering through Michigan, N.D., is the talk of the town

Deb Narum of Michigan, N.D., snapped this photo of her husband, Marvin, having a staredown with a bear that wandered through their shelterbelt south of Michigan on Thursday morning. They watched the bear for about half an hour before it wandered away to the east, Deb says. (Photo courtesy of Deb Narum)1 / 3
The bear that wandered through Marvin and Deb Narum's shelterbelt south of Michigan, N.D., on Thursday morning at one point looked up over the hood of the Narums pickup while they watched in surprise. (Photo courtesy of Deb Narum)2 / 3
The bear Deb Narum photographed Thursday morning in their shelterbelt south of Michigan, N.D., first was spotted the previous afternoon next to the local John Deere dealership on the west side of Michigan north of U.S. Highway 2. (Photo courtesy of Deb Narum)3 / 3

For whatever reasons bears decide to wander where they don’t normally wander, a bear decided to wander into Michigan, N.D., and has caused quite the buzz since Wednesday night, when photos started showing up on social media.

Seth Smaage of Michigan took the first photos of the bear about 5 p.m. Wednesday, when it was standing just west of the Leading Edge Equipment John Deere dealership north of U.S. Highway 2 in Michigan, and the photos then were posted on the Community of Michigan, ND Facebook page.

Smaage says he was within about 20 yards of the bear at the closest.

“It looked at us and posed for a couple of pictures and then turned around and walked back” into a shelterbelt next to the dealership, Smaage said.

The best story, though, comes from Deb Narum and her husband, Marvin, who live about 2½ miles south of Michigan on state Highway 35.

It all started about 6:15 a.m. Thursday morning when they got a call from a neighbor to the north saying a bear was headed their way, Deb says.

What else to do but hop in the pickup to see what they could see.

What they saw was a cinnamon-colored black bear, a particularly striking color phase for the species.

“We went looking for it, and we found it,” Deb Narum said Thursday morning with a laugh, sounding not the least bit concerned about the encounter. “It seemed like it was pretty friendly.”

Curious, too, apparently. At one point, while they were watching the bear as it wandered next to the truck through a shelterbelt behind their yard, the bear poked its head over the hood for a closer look and then walked around to the driver’s side window and had a little stare-down with Marvin.

Deb, of course snapped photos, not the least bit fazed by the bear’s sizeable paws -- and claws -- that clearly are visible as the bear leans against the half-open window.

The bear didn’t appear the least bit aggressive, Deb says.

“No, not at all,” she said. “It walked in the trees and we were just driving alongside of it. Pretty soon, it just started coming closer to us. It walked around the pickup. And then pretty soon, it just kind of came on the side.

“I wouldn’t have been sitting there that close!” she added with a laugh.

They watched the bear about half an hour, she says, following it as far as they could until a slough on their property prevented them from driving any farther.

Last she saw, the bear was headed east, Deb says.

“I think it’s just moving through,” she said. “I don’t think it’s worrisome at all. I guess you probably never know.”

Ironically, the morning bear encounter marked Deb’s first day of retirement from her job at Ihry Insurance in McVille, N.D., an eventful way to start a new chapter in life.

“I thought, ‘Oh, what a way for starting retirement,’ ” she said. “We’ve been to Alaska many times to see our son and have never seen a bear, and we see one in our backyard.”

Occasional visitors

Black bears aren’t common in North Dakota, but the animals occasionally wander into the state, most likely from Minnesota or Manitoba. The North Dakota Game Wardens Association on its Facebook page posted a photo June 1 of a chocolate-colored black bear that had wandered into a couple of rural residences in Walsh County.

Wardens responding to reports of the bear were able to use “deterrence techniques” to steer the bear away from the areas, according to the Facebook post.

Judging by the color, the bear in Walsh County could be the same bear last seen headed east south of Michigan.

Blake Riewer, district game warden for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department in Grand Forks, said bear reports also have come from Manvel, Ardoch and Lankin, N.D., in recent days.

“I don’t think we have that many bears, so it’s probably the same one,” Riewer said. “The best I can tell, it went from Manvel to Ardoch to Lankin to Michigan.

“It isn’t the last we’ve heard of it, I’m sure of that.”

Same bear or not, a bear in Michigan gets people talking.

“It’s not very common to see a bear in Michigan, North Dakota,” Smaage, who photographed the bear Wednesday afternoon, said. “I’ve never actually seen a wild bear before. I didn’t think it would be here.”

While the bear in the photo might look cute and curious, the Game Wardens Association on its Facebook page said people should avoid getting too close to this or any other bear. When bears become used to people, the story usually doesn’t end well for the bear, the association said.

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is a reporter and editor of the Herald's Sunday Northland Outdoors pages. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998.  A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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