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Bear rescued after getting stuck in ditch in Minnesota

The bear had been denned up in a culvert that started to flow during the recent warmup and became stuck when he attempted to seek drier cover, said a DNR bear project leader.

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The black bear as he appeared Monday morning, Feb. 6, 2023, before being freed from the snow by personnel from the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources and the Roseau County Sheriff's Office.
Contributed / Andy Tri, Minnesota DNR

WANNASKA, Minn. — A bear was rescued Monday morning, Feb. 6, after getting stuck in the deep snow of a ditch southwest of Wannaska in Roseau County, Minnesota.

After the ordeal, the bear was taken to a new den at Thief Lake Wildlife Management Area in Marshall County, a bear expert for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources said.

According to Andy Tri, bear project leader for the DNR in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, the adult male bear had been denned up in a culvert that started to flow during the recent warmup and became stuck when he attempted to seek drier cover.

Bear in artificial nest.jpeg
The bear rescued Monday morning, Feb. 6, 2023, from a snowy ditch south of Wannaska, Minnesota, was moved to an artificial "nest" where he was recovering from the incident. The adult male bear was coming to, after being sedated, when the photo was taken.
Contributed/Andy Tri, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources

“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,” Tri said late Monday morning.

Tri, who as a wildlife research biologist is trained and certified to administer sedatives, drove up early Monday morning from Grand Rapids and drugged the bear. With assistance from DNR conservation officers Ben Huener of Roseau, Coby Fontes of Baudette and an officer from the Roseau County Sheriff’s Office, they used a rope with “paw cuffs” to extract the bear from the deep snow, Tri said.


It took them about “20 minutes max” to free the bear once it was drugged, he said.

“I got there (Monday) morning, Ben (Huener) was with it just to make sure nothing happened to it. I came in and it was just one of those standard druggings,” Tri said. “He went right down in 10 minutes, and it took about five guys to haul him up and out of the hole once we dug him out. We just had to free his leg out of the hole of the culvert.”

The bear was in good shape and weighed “probably close to 375-400 pounds,” Tri said.

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

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Andy Tri, bear project leader for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, is pictured in March 2021 as he prepares to lift the gate on a culvert pen holding bears that were orphaned in 2020 as cubs and releasednortheast of Grygla, Minnesota.
Brad Dokken / Grand Forks Herald

The bear showed no sign of frostbite or frozen tissue, despite its ordeal, Tri said.

“He clearly smelled like runoff — stinky, stagnant water — but generally speaking, I don’t think he was totally frozen in,” Tri said. “I think he just got caught up in some of that thick ice where he pushed out and just hooked himself goofy. We did a little chipping away out of the culvert and were able to roll him on his back and extract his leg. There was a little bit of blood on the outside of the hole where he had been scraping trying to pull himself up, but (he was) no worse for wear and in real good shape.”

Brad Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and has been the Grand Forks Herald's outdoors editor since 1998.

Besides his role as an outdoors writer, Dokken has an extensive background in northwest Minnesota and Canadian border issues and provides occasional coverage on those topics.

Reach him at bdokken@gfherald.com, by phone at (701) 780-1148 or on Twitter at @gfhoutdoor.
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