Black bear cubs

Discouraging Bears in Columbus

Spring has sprung in the Gopher State, but Minnesota’s beloved rodent won’t be the only one relishing the warmer weather.

After happily dreaming away during a five-month hibernation, the state’s American black bears will be emerging from their winter dens and – after wiping the sand out of their eyes – looking for their first food of the season.

According to, black bear appetites are usually restricted to “old berries, rose hips and acorns along with winterkill carcasses” immediately after waking up. However, they’ll eventually start looking for heavier, more fulfilling meals – and few foods are as appetizing as entrees prepared by their unsuspecting human neighbors in Columbus.

The Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) says the best way to reduce human contact with bears is to eliminate the things that attract them in the first place because, like humans, once they find their favorite restaurant with their favorite foods, they become regular customers.

Black bears are attracted to outdoor domestic pets and their foods, garbage cans, birdfeeders, beehives, livestock and crops, so the DNR recommends properly removing or securing these types of items to keep them safe from groggy scavengers.

Focusing specifically on refuse, recommends taking prevention a step further by combatting a black bear’s keen sense of smell, advising the annual cleaning of trash receptacles to eliminate residual odor and using scent-free trash bags. Furthermore, they encourage trash dumpsters be rolled to the curb on the morning of trash collection day and retrieved the same day instead of putting them out the night before collection or letting them sit roadside for an extended duration.

Since the American black bear – the only species of bear in the state – usually finds its home in northern and central Minnesota, Columbus residents might be thinking to themselves that they won’t wake up to a bear pillaging through their trash because the City is situated far enough south in the state and close enough to the Twin Cities. However, a mother black bear and three cubs were sighted as recently as May 2019 in Oak Grove, only 20 miles west of Columbus and within Anoka County borders.

According to KMSP-TV, these types of sightings are becoming more common as the state’s black bear population is expanding south due to an increasing population and changes in the northern forests. The DNR estimates anywhere between 12,000 and 15,000 bears call The North Star State home, with that number being further inflated by similar situations in Wisconsin forcing bears west across the St. Croix River.

Fortunately, if a black bear does make its way into Columbus, citizens should remember that black bears are “wary of people and not normally aggressive,” according to the DNR, making them more pests than threats. However, a black bear is, as succinctly stated by the DNR, a “large, powerful and surprisingly fast” wild animal. If Columbus citizens encounter a black bear, they should follow the instructions provided by the DNR.