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'This thing was just gargantuan': Black bear adds excitement to Minnesotan's commute

Phil Talmage, area fisheries supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources in Baudette, Minn., had to stop to let this big black bear cross the road Tuesday morning on state Highway 11 near Birchdale, Minn. (Photo courtesy of Phil Talmage)1 / 2
Phil Talmage, area fisheries supervisor for the Department of Natural Resources in Baudette, Minn., had to stop to let this big black bear cross the road Tuesday morning on state Highway 11 near Birchdale, Minn. (Photo courtesy of Phil Talmage)2 / 2

BIRCHDALE, Minn.—When your daily commute takes you along Minnesota Highway 11 from International Falls to Baudette, you're bound to experience some memorable wildlife encounters.

Phil Talmage, area fisheries supervisor for the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources in Baudette, was reminded of that Tuesday morning on the drive to work.

Talmage lives in International Falls and commutes nearly 70 miles one way every day to the Baudette DNR fisheries office. On the morning of Tuesday, June 17, near Birchdale, he had to stop the car for the backwoods version of a traffic hazard, which in this case was a black bear.

Make that a very large black bear.

"He's running right for me," Talmage said. "I literally stopped the car in the middle of the highway, got my phone, got ready and he stepped out right in front of me like that."

Talmage, who's seen a bear or two in his day, says this one was especially impressive.

"I've never seen one that big before, and I've seen those big ones they've got down at the Vince Shute Bear Sanctuary (near Orr, Minn.), where they get those 5-, 6-, 700-pounders," Talmage said. "I mean this thing was just gargantuan."

The bear lumbered across the highway and into the woods to do whatever bears do in the woods, and Talmage continued on his way to work.

And that was that.

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is a reporter and editor of the Herald's Sunday Northland Outdoors pages. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998.  A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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