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Video: Bear camps out in tree near Duluth City Hall

DULUTH, Minn.--Early Wednesday morning, as Duluthians went to work, they saw a bear 50 or 60 feet up in a tree in the front yard of Duluth's City Hall.

A black bear yawns while perched in a tree next to City Hall in downtown Duluth on Wednesday. Bob King / Forum News Service

DULUTH, Minn.-Early Wednesday morning, as Duluthians went to work, they saw a bear 50 or 60 feet up in a tree in the front yard of Duluth’s City Hall.

Then, at about 1:40 p.m., he - or she - decided it was time to scramble down the tree and take a little ramble. The juvenile bruin loped up to Second Street behind City Hall toward the city’s parking ramp.

Up to five Duluth Police squad cars and a Department of Natural Resources conservation officer’s pickup, with lights flashing, accompanied the bear trying to gently herd it west.

“If we can get him west of Mesaba, he’s got all kinds of woods,” said Duluth Police sergeant Gayle Holton.

But the bear had different ideas, bearing south past the St. Louis County Courthouse, scattering inquisitive courthouse workers who had come outside to see the bear.


“We need to get back to work, but we can’t get there,” said Sandy Kohn, who works in human resources for the county.

The bear worked its way into the Duluth Civic Center, where it eventually climbed about 75-feet up a tree and sat at a confluence of two limbs, munching the tree’s buds with the American flag as a backdrop.

Earlier in the day, word had spread fast about the bear, which must have climbed the tree on the City Hall lawn early Wednesday morning. Throughout the morning, a steady procession of onlookers paused near the corner of Fourth Avenue West and First Street to gawk at the slumbering bruin.

“My boss went to a meeting and heard about it,” said Casey Yoder of Duluth. “He told me to shut down the office and go take pictures.”

So, being the only employee in the office at Kelly Services, that’s what Yoder did.

“I’m curious why he’s in the city,” she said. “I’m not sure what he was thinking.”

No loud or jeering crowds formed beneath the bear. Nobody came and left food at the base of the tree. Bears aren’t uncommon in Duluth, and many residents have seen bears in their yards or neighborhoods. They know the drill.

Now, here came Duluth Mayor Don Ness, on his way to the Port Cities Luncheon, all sport coat and tie and slacks. He stopped, looked up.


“To see a bear that high in a tree is unique,” said the mayor.

He started ticking off other memorable city bear sightings - a bear in a boat, a bear at the old Hotel Duluth. And then he was off to his luncheon.

The bear, which appeared to be a yearling, was curled up nose to tail where a couple of branches forked. Occasionally, it would raise its smoky head, look around or yawn. Then it would curl up again.

Gawkers arrived, shot smart-phone photos, moved on. Some assembled in impromptu groups and chatted with total strangers.

“It’s cool,” said Melissa Defoe of Cloquet.

Her daughter, Anissa Defoe, shot bear photos nearby.

“I live in the woods and can’t see a bear,” Melissa said. “I have to come to the city to see a bear.”

The bear lifted its head again.


“I like how he looks at us and then puts his head back down,” Melissa said.

Let’s face it. We like looking at wild things. Deer. Bear. Moose. Wolves. And here was a chance to study a wild critter for a while.

Laurie Sackett of LaCrosse, Wis., in town for a visit, watched the bear and talked to a stranger for several minutes. She seemed to know her bears. Her brother is a bear-hunting guide, she said.

“He looks like he’s a yearling,” Sackett said. “My guess is he was kicked off from the mother.”

She liked watching the bear, but she harbored concerns, too.

“This is awesome,” Sackett said, “but it bothers me because he needs to be taken back to where he belongs. Maybe tonight it will quiet down, and he’ll go on his way.”

Brian Hansen, Duluth city treasurer, could see the bear from his first-floor office in City Hall. He had seen the bear on his way to work Wednesday morning.

“It’s always exciting,” Hansen said. “It puts a different perspective on your day.”


But quickly, Hansen regained his professional composure and began thinking about how the bear might benefit the city.

“Hopefully, he’s paid all his assessments,” Hansen said. “But he might have to pay a lodging tax.”

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