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Black bear pays a visit in Baxter neighborhood

BAXTER — A black bear caused a little commotion in a Baxter neighborhood Monday afternoon and ended up taking a nap in a tree after an encounter with residents and Baxter police.

Michael Heikkenen called police about the black bear that was in his grandmother’s yard on First Street in Baxter, near Southdale Park off Highland Scenic Road.

Heikkenen said a woman he works with was on her bus route and saw the bear in his grandma’s yard and called to tell him. Heikkenen said he went home and his grandma, Peggy Butler, had no idea the black bear was in her yard.

“I was worried about the dog (that was in a kennel outside near the tree) and then I worried about the bear’s safety,” said Heikkenen. “They (police) chased it around, threw a stick at it and eventually it went up the tree. I did not want them to euthanize it.”

Baxter Police Chief Jim Exsted said law enforcement doesn’t have a lot of options when it comes to taking care of black bears that may be a nuisance entering neighborhoods. Police were concerned with the bear in the neighborhood as students were getting out of school, so they monitored the situation. Police tried to lure the bear to the swamp across from Highland Scenic Road, but the bear was not cooperating. The bear eventually climbed into a tree and took a nap.

“Our only option with this situation was to leave the bear and let it come down by itself and have it go back into the woods,” said Exsted. “We hung around the area until the kids were all out of school, so we could watch the pedestrian traffic.

“We live in northern Minnesota with the wildlife and that includes bears. People enjoy the wildlife and others have concerns with it and for good reason. Generally bears move on.”

And the bear did move on around 6 p.m. Monday, with about a dozen people watching.

Pete Mohs, who lives on Brentwood Drive, said the bear came down the tree, walked toward the house and disappeared.

“He took his time,” said Mohs. “He didn’t seem mad or anything.”

Jilaine Heitkotter, who lives on Cedardale Lane, said she has never seen the bear before Monday, but saw evidence of its presence last week. A bear had gotten into her square suet bird feeder and twisted it up to try to get to the suet. It also broke her “Frosty the Snowman” bird feeder.

C.B. Bylander, outreach chief for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) Fish and Wildlife Division said there are several things a person can do to try to minimize bear problems. People can take down their bird feeders; put away their dog or cat food; clean their barbecue grills and picnic/patio tables; and rinse out any food or beverage containers before throwing them away. All of this eliminates odors bears are attracted to, said Bylander.

“If you encounter a bear, don’t approach them,” Bylander said. “Make the bear aware of your presence and let it know it has an escape route. Don’t run, back away slowly.

“If a bear doesn’t leave be in a secure area.”

Bylander said black bear attacks are rare and they are wary of people.

Bylander said law enforcement has the authority to take care of the bear in the best way they see fit. Bylander said typically the bear is not shot, but it depends on the situation, such as if the bear is threatening or the density of the population where the bear is at.

JENNIFER STOCKINGER may be reached at or 855-5851. Follow on Twitter at