Beekeeper catches bear on camera in rural Oronoco

There was another bear sighting in the area in rural Oronoco.
Published: Jun. 1, 2023 at 5:38 PM CDT
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ORONOCO, Minn. (KTTC) – There’s been a string of bear sightings in the area, most recently a black bear roaming around an acreage in rural Oronoco.

Zumbro Valley Honey Bees and Ginseng owner Greg French has been keeping bees for thirty years on his friend’s property. He hasn’t had a run in with a bear until now.

Last week, he got a phone call that some of his hives had been tipped over.

“Naturally, I come flying out here and sure enough they’re scattered all over the place,” he said.

He put them back, not thinking much of it until they were tipped over the next day.

“I came out and checked them the next day, and they were on the ground again, so that’s when I put my trail cam up,” he said.

The camera captured a black bear rummaging around his bins, looking for a midnight snack.

Black bear in Oronoco
Black bear in Oronoco(KTTC)

He has some northern Minnesota beekeeper friends who put up electric fencing around their hives to keep out bears, but that’s not something he’s interested in doing.

“I didn’t want to just because it’s a once in a lifetime thing around here,” he said.

The bears been around six out of the past 10 days. French has nicknamed the bear Bruce.

Black bears are typically spotted in the wild in the northern part of the state, but you can see them all over the region.

Black bears in MN map
Black bears in MN map(KTTC)

“We know that black bears can migrate down this way. I shouldn’t say really migrate. They’re not just here for the season. They could be here permanently, but I think they usually tend to find out that Southeast Minnesota is not really their territory,” Oxbow Park naturalist Clarissa Schrooten said.

So why may these bears be hanging around our area?

“They might end up sticking around because they become what we call habituated, common and regulars to humans. They feel comfortable,” Schrooten said.

They may be comfortable with having food served to them on a silver platter at the hives.

“This is like a buffet for the bears. They really go for the larvae and the bees. The honey’s kinda like ice cream for them,” French said.

“They have eyes that can see but the nose is better. They can smell the honey. When they get to the beehive, they can eat thousands of bees at one time,” Schrooten said.

There’s minor damage to his hives, but French says the bees will continue to produce honey, so he’s letting nature do it’s thing.

“I’m just going to keep managing the bees. Let them do their things. That’s all you can do,” French said.