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DNR sets meetings to take input on proposed new bear hunting unit for Northwest Angle

A separate Bear Management Unit for the Northwest Angle would give the DNR more flexibility in setting bear permit quotas for the area and hopefully provide more recreational opportunity.

Black bear
Black bear.
Contributed / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

BAUDETTE, Minn. – The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources has scheduled two public meetings for next week to discuss a proposal to create a new bear hunting unit specifically for the Northwest Angle.

Meetings are set for 6:30 to 8 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 16, at Angle Inlet Elementary School, 17606 Inlet Road NE, Angle Inlet, Minnesota; and from 6:30 to 8 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 17, at the Warroad DNR Office, 804 Cherne Drive NW, Warroad, Minnesota.

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The proposed change would create a separate Bear Management Unit for the Northwest Angle, giving the DNR more flexibility in setting bear permit quotas for the area and hopefully provide more recreational opportunity, said Scott Laudenslager, area wildlife manager for the DNR in Baudette.

The Northwest Angle currently is part of BMU 12, an area extending basically from Roseau south to the northern border of the Red Lake Indian Reservation, east nearly to Waskish, Minnesota, and back north to Baudette. The unit includes portions of Roseau, Beltrami and Lake of the Woods counties.

Minnesota bear management units.JPG
Contributed / Minnesota DNR

As a result, bear hunters on the Northwest Angle have to apply for the same limited number of permits as hunters in the rest of the unit, Laudenslager said. In 2020, for example, the DNR offered 125 permits in BMU 12.

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“It’s probably fair to say that most applicants for area 12 do not want to hunt up at the Northwest Angle,” Laudenslager said. “They don’t want to drive another 60 miles across Manitoba and everything else – especially in the COVID day and age.”

Bordered on three sides by Canada, the Northwest Angle is accessible by road only by driving through about 40 miles of Manitoba and meeting Canada’s border-crossing requirements for nonessential travelers, which include being fully vaccinated and showing proof of a negative COVID PCR test taken no more than 72 hours before crossing the border.

Laudenslager says he plans to snowmobile across Lake of the Woods to attend the upcoming meeting at the Angle.

Bear habitat on the Northwest Angle consists mainly of natural food sources, making it different from the rest of BMU 12, which is 60 miles away and has an agricultural component to the habitat.

The proposed change would address those differences and give DNR wildlife managers the flexibility to manage bears more specifically to their habitat, Laudenslager said. The proposed boundaries of the Northwest Angle BMU would be the same as Deer Permit Area 114.

DPA 114.JPG
The new Bear Permit Unit for Minnesota's Northwest Angle would be the same as Deer Permit Area 114.
Contributed / Minnesota DNR

The proposal follows a summer in which nuisance bear problems were widespread at the Northwest Angle. The blueberry and chokecherry crops were a bust because of the summer drought, and the abundance of acorns, especially on Flag and Oak islands, attracted bears in droves.

“The bears were really attracted to where the acorns fell,” Laudenslager said. “It was a widely known fact that the drought was regionwide – not just Minnesota; (northwestern) Ontario and southeastern Manitoba were hit hard, too.

“Some people were afraid to come out of their cabins and logically so,” he added. “(Bears are) not like deer, where they just run away. They may run away, but then sometimes, they stand their ground, and that’s not good for anybody – the bear or the people.”

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Residents and cabin owners are generally accepting of the bears and the difficulty the starving animals face as they try to fatten up for winter, but there’s also concern about the animals becoming aggressive – especially sows with cubs.

Those who attend the upcoming meetings will hear a short presentation and have an opportunity to ask questions and provide written comments about the proposal.

Anyone interested in the proposal but can’t attend in person can call Laudenslager at (218) 395-6033 or email him at scott.laudenslager@state.mn.us to receive an access code for listening in on either meeting, he said.

Comments or questions also can be addressed to Laudenslager at the phone number or email address.

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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