DULUTH — Following recent reports of bear aggression involving dogs and the subsequent death of a toy poodle named Gizmo, a female bruin was euthanized Sunday morning, Oct. 6, in Duluth.
The mother bear was standing guard over three cubs that had been captured in a live trap placed in Tracy Tezak's yard, where a dog had been attacked four days earlier.
"The sow was outside the trap, and the three cubs were caught inside the trap. So, the conservation officers dispatched the sow," said Martha Minchak, an assistant wildlife manager for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.
She said the animal, which weighed an estimated 150 to 200 pounds, will be transported to an animal health lab in the Twin Cities for a necropsy "to find out if she had any underlying health issues that caused her aggressive behavior, but we're thinking she was just being defensive for the cubs."
Meanwhile, the cubs were transported to the Garrison Animal Hospital, where Minchak said they will be held through the winter until spring, when they can safely be released back into the wild. She estimated the cubs weighed around maybe 20 pounds apiece, well below the 40-pound threshold where they likely could survive a winter on their own.
Minchak acknowledged that there's no way to know if the now-dead bear is the same one that attacked Tezak's dog, Gizmo, on Wednesday. The pet sustained broken ribs and a lung contusion yet initially survived the bear encounter. But a return trip to the veterinarian on Friday revealed the lung injuries were so severe that they would require extensively invasive and risky surgery, prompting Tezak's difficult decision to have Gizmo put down.
"He had been through enough," said Tezak, adding that it has been difficult to adjust to Gizmo's loss. "Gizmo was my shadow. Gizzy was always by my side."
In two other reports of aggressive bear behavior toward dogs in the area, Minchak noted that witnesses had described seeing cubs nearby. But Tezak said she saw no cubs present during the attack on her dog.
Even though the DNR can't be sure if the bear problems can be attributed to a single animal, much less the one killed Sunday, Minchak said trapping efforts have been discontinued.
"So, we've pulled all the traps, and we're waiting to see if there are any other incidents. Of course, we hope not," she said.
In the meantime, Minchak encourages neighborhood residents "to be bear aware," securing trash and other food sources out of the animals' reach.
She also advises pet owners to take extra precautions, such as flashing exterior lights on and off before stepping outside and keeping dogs on leashes.
In the immediate wake of recent reports of bear aggression around dogs and people, Minchak said it also may be wise for people to carry bear spray and know how to use it. But she cautioned people to use only spray specifically designed to repel bears, rather than garden-variety pepper spray.
The recent spate of incidents is the first Minchak said she has heard of this year.
"It's not routine, by any stretch," she said. "It's quite unusual. So, we're really hoping this was the target bear, and this will be the end of it."
In spite of the recently removed bear, Tezak said she remains concerned about the welfare of her other dog, Rene, a golden retriever, whenever she's outdoors.
"I'm nervous when Rene goes out. I probably will be for a while," she said.
Tezak described her mixed emotions, saying: "I'm hopeful that that was the bear, because I hate the fact that we had to destroy it. I do enjoy seeing bears, but when one came after my dogs and then charged me, that was pretty terrifying."