SAVAGE, Minn. (WCCO) — The first reports of a north woods visitor came just prior to the Memorial Day weekend. On Friday morning, the phone line to Savage police began ringing as folks like Jessica Sepeda called in, saying they’d seen a bear.
“It was pretty close to my development,” she said, “so it made me kind of nervous.”
She was driving her car along Highway 13 near 126th Street when she thought her eyes were playing tricks.
“Sure enough, as I got closer, it was standing on the side of the road, parallel with the way traffic was going,” Sepeda said. “It shook its little head and was pretty cute.”
It was an adult black bear, ambling across the roadway. She grabbed her camera and took a photograph as proof. Savage police say it’s the first time in recent memory they’ve had a bear in the city limits.
In fact, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources, black bears rarely venture closer than the forest fringes of the north metro.
The bear was observed a few more times along between McColl Drive and Connely Parkway. Then, later Friday evening, it cruised past Town and Country Campground just to the west along Eagle Creek.
“It was just kind of loping along, with no worries in the world and was just passing through,” said Dave Olmstead, the owner of the campground.
The last thing his campers expected to see was a black bear.
“They were very excited by it, and some of them were hopeful they would get to see it again,” Olmstead said. “We actually went around and warned some of our tenters not to leave food in the tent. That doesn’t usually happen in an urban camping experience, so that was kind of an interesting change for us.”
But with the bear so close to a campground packed with people for the holiday, Savage police took what they thought was the safest course of action. An officer shot at the bear but ended up only grazing it as the animal lumbered off across the creek.
It was last seen running into the woods and away from likely trouble. Two days later, on Memorial Day, it was spotted once again about one mile to the east.
“We have wild turkeys and fox, things like that in our neighborhood,” Sepeda said. “But I’ve never seen a black bear in my life.”