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Bears remains up a tree in Morris

As of Wednesday morning, a black bear still is in a tree near the intersection of East 9th Street and Oregon Avenue. Law enforcement first received reports of the bear in town Tuesday night, but attempts to chase it out of town failed and the bear climbed the tree instead, drawing dozens of onlookers. Photo courtesy Judy Johnston.

Law enforcement and wildlife officials for a second day are monitoring the status of a bear that has been in a tree in a residential neighborhood since late Tuesday night.

Morris Chief of Police Jim Beauregard said little has changed since Wednesday afternoon, when the bear climbed down to lower branches. The bear's perch is near the intersection of East 9th Street and Oregon Avenue.

Authorities thought the bear might make a move to leave the tree in the night hours Wednesday, after vehicle and human traffic lightened. That it did not descent has led officials to speculate that the bear might have been injured more seriously than first thought. Police first learned of the bear's presence in town when a woman reported hitting the animal with her car late Tuesday night.

"We'll keep on eye on him today and see what happens," Beauregard said.

No decision has been made on what to do beyond today, but Beauregard said that if the bear is seriously injured, "we don't want him up there suffering."

The bear's presence in town has created quite a stir. Wildlife officials said they can't remember a bear sighting in the area in many years.

Police have set up barricades on East 9th, East 8th and East 7th streets and at intersections on Oregon and California avenues. Law enforcement is asking the public to stay away from the area since the bear likely won't descend until it feels safe.

Stevens County Sheriff's Posse members, police officers and Morris firefighters are volunteering their time to man intersections to keep vehicle and pedestrians outside a two-block area around the bear, Beauregard said.

Because of the volunteer help, the department's costs for monitoring the bear and keeping people out of the area haven't been excessive, he said.

On Wednesday, Beauregard cautioned that it could take time for the situation to be resolved.

"It's going good so far, we're being patient," Beauregard said. "With wildlife, you have to be patient sometimes, and a lot of times we humans aren't very good with that."

Law enforcement first heard the bear was in town at about 11 p.m. Tuesday night. A woman reported that she hit the bear with her car. However, there was no damage to the car, law enforcement stated.

Morris police responded and attempted to chase the bear out of city limits, but the bear instead climbed the tree and spent the night there.

Word spread quickly Wednesday morning and dozens showed up. People, including a group of daycare kids, walked up close to the tree to take a look. Police estimated that at least 100 people were around the area, watching, photographing and videotaping the bear. The bear also has a Facebook page, The Morris Black Bear.

The bear, wedged fairly securely in a crook in the tree, occasionally looked around at the commotion below and at times appeared to be napping. If the bear does move, it probably will be at night, DNR officials said.

"Poor bear, I'm sure he'd like nothing more than to get out of town," said Kevin Kotts, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources Area Wildlife Supervisor. "The reason bears go into trees is because they're scared, and this one certainly isn't going to move if there are a lot of people there."

DNR Conservation Officer Tony Anderson said officials weighed the options: tranquilizing the bear was dismissed. No one in the area has a tranquilizer gun, the shooter would have to be fairly close to the animal to ensure a direct hit, and even if the tranquilized bear didn't fall to its death, officials couldn't come up with an efficient and safe procedure for carrying it out of the tree.

Killing the bear also isn't feasible since it would involve shooting a high-powered rifle, into the air, in a residential area.

Waiting the bear out is the only way, Anderson said.

"That's the best outcome for the bear, for sure," Anderson said. "In cases like this, it's a tough decision to make."

Anderson estimated the bear's weight at about 150 pounds and that it's likely about 18 months old. It probably was kicked out of its den by its mother and it has been wandering, searching for territory, he said.

Kotts said he's been in contact with DNR bear researchers in Grand Rapids, who advised leaving it alone and letting it make an exit when it feels comfortable.

Neither Kotts nor Anderson can recall a bear sighting in the Morris area. Kotts said he has received reports of bear wandering in Pope and Douglas counties, which have more wooded areas. That the bear made its way to Morris signals that it's probably a male.

"It's common for young males to be wandering," Kotts said.