Wannaska, MN

Animal rescuers succeed in saving hibernating bear stuck in frozen culvert, phew!

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Photo byMinnesota Department of Natural Resources/Facebook

Wow, what a rude awakening!

A 6-year-old black bear chose a storm culvert near Wannaska, Minnesota, as a cozy place to hibernate this winter. Unfortunately for the bear, this choice did not go well.

The snow around him began to melt in late February, causing the culvert to flood and then freeze again. The poor man was trapped in snow and ice for three days before someone noticed and called for help.

People had already tried digging the bear out and luring him with a variety of unhealthy (for bears) treats by the time experts from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources arrived. Fortunately, the bear was not hungry because he was still in hibernation mode.

Andrew Tri, a wildlife research biologist, arrived on the scene with a Roseau County deputy to assess the situation.

“He tried to push himself out and kind of got wedged on some frozen water that had frozen and thawed, frozen and thawed and got stuck in place and tired,” the biologist explained.

The team used a syringe pole to administer anesthetic to the bear. It took five strong men to pull the bear, estimated to weigh between 375 and 400 pounds, out of the culvert once he was asleep. Andrew gave him a thorough examination and determined that, despite his sleepiness, he was in excellent physical condition!

The crew placed him in "paw cuffs" while pulling him out and inspecting him, then transported him to the Thief Lake Wildlife Management Area in Marshall County to finish the winter.

“He’s in the back of a pickup truck now, and we’ll make him a new den,” said Andrew. “He probably won’t stay, but at least it will give him some protection from the elements after that.”

In a Facebook post, the department of natural resources shared the story along with photos of the bear rescue. They summed up with a reminder to the public to never “bother” a bear, either in the wild or near their homes.

“If you’re ever concerned about a bear’s safety by all means give us a call,” they advised. But don’t try to move it or feed it! Doing so can result in a bad situation (either for you or for the bear).”

Of all the places to settle down for a long winter’s nap! We were “today years old” when we learned bears sometimes hibernate above ground, but we’re glad this guy got the help he needed.

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