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Bear sets up shop on Minnesota jailhouse's front lawn

RED WING, Minn. - Minnesota Correctional Facility-Red Wing had a naturally occurring escape deterrent in place for a short while Sunday: A black bear perched in a tree on the institution's front lawn.

The bear was likely a transient male making his way through the area, said Department of Natural Resources conservation officer Tyler Quandt.

Just why the bear decided to climb a tree situated between Highway 61 and the state's prison for juvenile males is anyone's guess, he said.

"He could have gotten scared or it was just somewhere he wanted to spend some time," Quandt said, estimating the creature was about 200 pounds.

He stopped by the scene to check on the bear Sunday afternoon while curious MCF-Red Wing guards watched. Quandt advised them to let the bear be.

Every year there are "a handful" of black bear sightings in the area, Quandt said.

Sunday's incident was the second this year. A bear was reportedly spotted in Hay Creek about two months ago.

Quandt said there are some black bears that call the Goodhue County area home, though most are just passing through.

Black bears are typically scared of humans and generally run off, he said. Still, he recommended that people who encounter black bears leave them alone.

Attacks on humans are "extremely rare" by black bears, which he said "would much, much rather run away from a human."

"Just respect them - don't try to feed them. Don't try to corner them," Quandt said. "Consider it a privilege to see them."

Sunday's incident was the first time a bear drew much attention in the area since November 2007 when Quandt shot one in Featherstone Township. That bear had somehow lost its fear of humans and became a public safety hazard, Quandt said.

Mike Longaecker is a reporter at The Red Wing (Minn.) Republican Eagle, which is owned by Forum Communications Co.