DULUTH — Stone Boulanger of Stone River Wildlife Control says it was the largest nuisance bear he's ever trapped for a homeowner. He trapped the bear last Monday evening, Oct. 9, at a residence in the Duluth Heights neighborhood, he said, where it had been causing repeated damage to the home.
The bear weighed 605 pounds field-dressed.
That's a whopping big black bear.
"I've never seen anything bigger than this," said Boulanger, whose business is based in Carlton. "A big bear is 300. This is just phenomenal."
Boulanger found someone who was willing to use the meat from the bear, which was captured in a live trap. He took it to a remote location and killed it. The bear was processed by Rob Parrott of Bear's Den Wild Game Processing in Saginaw.
"I've been guiding bear hunts and processing wild game since 1984, and I've never seen anything like this," Parrott said.
John Chalstrom of Chalstrom's Bait and Tackle north of Duluth also processes wild game.
"Of all the years I've been monkeying with bears, I've never seen anything bigger," Chalstrom said. "I've had a couple in the mid-550s in my whole lifetime here. Our old scale goes to 600 pounds. We had one that bent the scale at 585. That's the biggest bear I've ever had here."
Both the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Duluth Police Department authorized the live-trapping of the bear, Boulanger said.
The bear had been trying to break into the homeowner's house during the evenings, Boulanger said.
"It broke through a door in the residence," Boulanger said, "and was breaking some glass. One time, it broke out the glass and stuck its head in the door. When (the homeowner) hit it over the head with a frying pan, it took a swipe but hit the outside wall."
He said he believes it might be the same bear that broke through two garage doors on Orange Street last year, about a half-mile from where Boulanger trapped it this year.
A live trap, mounted on a trailer, is made from a steel culvert 8 feet long and 4 feet in diameter, Boulanger said. Boulanger had placed a bucket of sunflower seeds and doughnuts at the far end of the trap.
"The bear is supposed to crawl in, and as soon as they put any weight on the pail, the door is spring-loaded and it slams shut behind the bear," he said.
That failed the first time.
"The bear was so long that its back was still sticking out of the back end of the trap," Boulanger said. "He slid out and got away."
Two nights later — this past Monday — Boulanger made the food harder to get, and the bear was successfully trapped.
The homeowners were "ecstatic," Boulanger said.
"They had a good sleep that night," he said. "The bear had been coming around from about 10 to midnight. They were pretty paranoid of it."
He estimated the live weight of the bear at about 665 pounds.
After being field-dressed, the bear was taken to Bear's Den, where it was weighed at 605 pounds, Parrott said. The bear was ready for winter.
"I took off 160 pounds of fat," Parrott said. "I'll bet the fat was 4½ or 5 inches thick on its back. It was incredible."
Parrott also said that in processing the bear, he found "tons of lead shot in the hind (end)" and a rifle slug lodged in the tenderloin.
"He must have been a nuisance for some time," Parrott said.
The bear had one thing in its favor in being able to grow so large, Boulanger said.
"He's just a city bear," Boulanger said. "And there's no bear hunting in the city. They just grow up and get big. If they're not hit by a car, they just keep growing."
Why live-trapped bears aren't released alive
So-called "nuisance" bears that are live-trapped and removed from a location are typically not released back into the wild, even several miles away. That's the policy of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, which authorizes live-trapping of nuisance animals, said Martha Minchak, assistant area wildlife manager for the DNR in Duluth.
"Years ago, when we used to trap and relocate bears, they'd mark the bears," Minchak said. "We found they'd often come back within a few days to the same spot. They'd either come back to the same exact spot or go to another spot and do the same behavior."
So, five or six years ago, the DNR's policy changed, Minchak said.
"We no longer trap and relocate," she said. "We trap and kill these bears, and we don't take that lightly. That's our policy for aggressive bears, doing property damage."
It's mandatory, she said, that the trapper find someone who wants the meat from the bear — before it is trapped. Then the bear is trapped, killed and processed.