Published May 27, 2010, 12:00 AM

Lincoln Park bear beats hasty retreat after two hours in tree

A young black bear parked itself in a tree in Duluth’s Lincoln Park business district Wednesday, attracting crowds of spectators for two hours before climbing down and leaving the area.

By: Steve Kuchera, Duluth News Tribune

A young black bear parked itself in a tree in Duluth’s Lincoln Park business district Wednesday, attracting crowds of spectators for two hours before climbing down and leaving the area.

Keeping people away from the treed bear were Duluth police officers and then Minnesota Conservation Officer Randy Hanzal.

“The best thing people can do is leave it alone,” Hanzal said.

Hanzal estimated the bear weighed about 110 pounds and was 1½ years old.

It’s not clear where the bear came from, though Duluth police Officer Daryl Diver said someone reported seeing a bear earlier on a section of Interstate 35 near 27th Avenue West that’s closed for construction.

The young bear came through US Bank’s parking lot shortly after noon and climbed a 20-foot conifer tree along 20th Avenue West. Mortgage loan officer Gloria Moen was in the bank building across the avenue from the lot when she heard someone exclaim: “There’s a bear in the parking lot.”

Moen said the bear came from the direction of I-35 and it appeared about to cross Superior Street when it became scared, circled around the lot and climbed about halfway up the tree until it was fairly well screened by needles.

The sight of a bear in the heart of a busy commercial area quickly attracted a crowd of spectators.

“Everybody came and you saw a smile on their face. It was cool,” Moen said.

Jonas Ekse was one of those who gathered to see the bear. “It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a bear in the city of Duluth itself,” he said. “I’ve seen white-tailed deer all the time.”

The strategy of leaving the bear alone until it was ready to come down bore fruit about 2:15 p.m., when it left the tree, crossed the parking lot and — after a couple of abortive attempts — crossed Superior Street between 19th and 20th avenues west. It went up an alley toward Arrowhead Dairy Products. Lindsey Clark said she saw the bear run under a parked semi-truck before she lost sight of it.

The bear crossed First Street and the Franklin Foods parking lot. The end of the lot is blocked by a chain-link fence topped by three strands of barbed wire — no obstacle for the bear.

“He went up over the fence, jumped into a tree, climbed down the tree, went through the skate park and up the hill,” Franklin Foods employee Jim Mueller said. “I couldn’t believe how quick he went up the fence. He spread the barbed wire and went between the first and second strand.”

After walking along U.S. Highway 53, the bear ventured into a wooded residential area, Hanzal said.

“If people leave him alone until dark, he’ll find his way back to where he came from,” he said.

Hanzal reminded people to be aware of their surroundings, keep garbage covered and garage doors closed.

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