MICHIGAN, N.D. - For whatever reasons bears decide to wander where they don't normally wander, a bear decided to wander into Michigan, N.D., and has caused quite the buzz since Wednesday night, June 6, when photos started showing up on social media.
Seth Smaage of Michigan took the first photos of the bear about 5 p.m. Wednesday, when it was standing just west of the Leading Edge Equipment John Deere dealership north of U.S. Highway 2 in Michigan, and the photos then were posted on the Community of Michigan, ND Facebook page.
Smaage says he was within about 20 yards of the bear at the closest.
"It looked at us and posed for a couple of pictures and then turned around and walked back" into a shelterbelt next to the dealership, Smaage said.
The best story, though, comes from Deb Narum and her husband, Marvin, who live about 2½ miles south of Michigan on state Highway 35.
It all started about 6:15 a.m. Thursday morning when they got a call from a neighbor to the north saying a bear was headed their way, Deb says.
What else to do but hop in the pickup to see what they could see.
What they saw was a cinnamon-colored black bear, a particularly striking color phase for the species.
"We went looking for it, and we found it," Deb Narum said Thursday morning with a laugh, sounding not the least bit concerned about the encounter. "It seemed like it was pretty friendly."
Curious, too, apparently. At one point, while they were watching the bear as it wandered next to the truck through a shelterbelt behind their yard, the bear poked its head over the hood for a closer look and then walked around to the driver's side window and had a little stare-down with Marvin.
Deb, of course snapped photos, not the least bit fazed by the bear's sizeable paws-and claws-that clearly are visible as the bear leans against the half-open window.
The bear didn't appear the least bit aggressive, Deb says.
"No, not at all," she said. "It walked in the trees and we were just driving alongside of it. Pretty soon, it just started coming closer to us. It walked around the pickup. And then pretty soon, it just kind of came on the side.
"I wouldn't have been sitting there that close!" she added with a laugh.
They watched the bear about half an hour, she says, following it as far as they could until a slough on their property prevented them from driving any farther.
Last she saw, the bear was headed east, Deb says.
"I think it's just moving through," she said. "I don't think it's worrisome at all. I guess you probably never know."
Ironically, the morning bear encounter marked Deb's first day of retirement from her job at Ihry Insurance in McVille, N.D., an eventful way to start a new chapter in life.
"I thought, 'Oh, what a way for starting retirement,'" she said. "We've been to Alaska many times to see our son and have never seen a bear, and we see one in our backyard."
Black bears aren't common in North Dakota, but the animals occasionally wander into the state, most likely from Minnesota or Manitoba. The North Dakota Game Wardens Association on their Facebook page posted a photo June 1 of a chocolate-colored black bear that had wandered into a couple of rural residences in Walsh County.
Wardens responding to reports of the bear were able to use "deterrence techniques" to steer the bear away from the areas, according to the Facebook post.
Judging by the color, the bear in Walsh County could be the same bear last seen headed east south of Michigan, but only the bear knows for sure, and it wasn't available for comment.
Same bear or not, a bear in Michigan gets people talking.
"It's not very common to see a bear in Michigan, North Dakota," Smaage said. "I've never actually seen a wild bear before. I didn't think it would be here."