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Two bears killed, abandoned near Orr sanctuary

Two black bears have been found dead about 150 yards outside a bear sanctuary near Orr in the past week.

Both of the bears were regular visitors to the American Bear Association's Vince Shute Wildlife Sanctuary, said Dennis Udovich of Greaney, who is president of the association and also president of the Minnesota Bear Guides Association.

The first bear was found dead Saturday. It was not field-dressed, and its hide was intact, said Lt. Greg Payton, district enforcement supervisor at Eveleth for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

The second bear was found Monday, Payton said. Its head, hide and paws had been removed, but its carcass was left behind. Because the usable parts of the bear were left, enforcement officials could charge the shooter with wanton waste, which carries a $275 fine.

Neither bear was unusually large, unlike the 800-pound sanctuary bear, Duffy, that was killed near the sanctuary's boundary in 1998, Udovich said. Another sanctuary bear was shot and killed in 2004 just outside the boundary, he said.

Payton said enforcement officials have no suspects at this time. A reward of $2,250 has been offered for anyone with information about the shootings that leads to an arrest and conviction. Information may be forwarded to the TIP (Turn in Poachers) hotline at (800) 952-9093.

Minnesota's bear season opened Sept. 1 and continues through Oct. 14. It is legal to hunt near the 520-acre sanctuary's boundaries, but hunters are discouraged from doing so, Udovich said.

"Certainly, it's unethical, whether we have a poacher or licensed hunter involved," Payton said.

The Minnesota Bear Guides Association in 2006 passed a resolution stating that just because a bear is legal to kill doesn't mean it's ethical, Udovich said.

"I'm just so upset that people would do this," he said.

The bears were shot on state land, Payton said.

"They were definitely sanctuary bears," Udovich said. "These guys [shooters] set up along a travel corridor. It would be like a runway going to a deer feeder."

About 20,000 people visited the sanctuary last year, Udovich said. Wild bears are fed at the sanctuary. Volunteers at the staff provide interpretive information about bears to visitors. The sanctuary is about 14 miles west of Orr and four miles from Nett Lake.