As bear sightings increase in area, it was inevitable; road death may have been first in area history

By Louis Hoglund

A bear, estimated at perhaps two years old, met his fate on Highway 59–just west of the Prairie Lake bridge near Pelican Rapids–some time early Saturday morning, May 18. The photo here was taken by Prairie Lake resident Marcella Rose.

The Pelican Rapids area isn’t exactly Yellowstone Park–with a bear around every bend–but sightings have been somewhat more frequent in the past several years.

Sadly, it was probably inevitable that a bad luck bear would eventually be a victim of a road accident. 

A bear-car collision is exactly what happened sometime overnight or early morning May 18, when a lifeless bruin came to rest on the shoulder of Highway 59–only about 100 yards from the Prairie Lake public boat landing. 

It may have been among the first bear fatalities in history, on an Otter Tail County roadway. Since the greater Pelican Rapids area is quite far south of Minnesota’s traditional bear country, sightings are still somewhat uncommon.  

The Pelican Rapids Press has carried stories of several sightings in the Scambler Town Hall and Cemetery area; as well as Maplewood State Park in recent years.  A reader submitted a photo near Pelican Lake and Tamarac Lake a couple years ago. There have been a number of bear reported on trail cameras, especially in the Maplewood-Erhard hill country.  

“We’ve had several sightings in the Prairie Lake area,” said lifelong Pelican area resident and avid outdoorsman Steve Zimmerman, who was one of several who came across the carcass, at about 7 a.m. Bears battered some bird feeders at a Prairie residence, he noted.

Cole Forsgren also spotted the animal around 6 a.m. Saturday morning, on his way to the Forsgren Pheasant Farm.  

The collision was reported to law enforcement, but the driver of the vehicle was not readily available when this edition of the newspaper went to Press. 

Cole, and his grandfather Darrell Forsgren, made contact with the Department of Natural Resources–which gave Cole a “salvage permit” to take the bear.  

“It was probably a two-year-old…and a good 250 pounds,” said Cole, who enlisted Jed Hanson to help him hoist the animal into the truck. “We had all we could do for the two of us to lift it and load it.” 

Though the bear was the victim of an unfortunate road accident, the animal was put to good use. Cole butchered the animal right away on Saturday.  He is planning to process the meat into sausage or jerky.  He is also planning to have the hide tanned, and keep the pelt.