EAGLES NEST TOWNSHIP, Minn. (AP) ―
Solo the bear and her two cubs were being moved Monday from underneath a seasonal cabin in northern Minnesota to an outdoor bear facility about 500 miles away in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, Minnesota Department of Natural Resources officials said.
But when DNR officials went to the bears' den to capture them early Monday morning, the bears were no longer hibernating and a strong smell of pepper spray was in the air, DNR Wildlife Research and Policy Manager Michael DonCarlos said.
"Someone had used pepper spray on the bears," DonCarlos said. "We believe it happened within the last 24 hours, because you could still smell it."
DNR officials found an empty can of pepper spray on the cabin property and were able to find the bears nearby, DonCarlos said. The bears showed evidence of severe eye irritation, and the DNR is investigating possible criminal activity, he said.
"The veterinarian who examined all three bears determined they are in good health and could be safely transported," DonCarlos said.
The bears were captured unharmed and loaded into a DNR truck to be taken to Oswald's Bear Ranch, which officials said is the nation's largest outdoor facility exclusively for bears.
The DNR says one-eared Solo and her cubs have lost their fear of humans and needed to be moved from the private cabin near Ely.
Solo's fate got media attention last month after DNR officials talked about euthanizing the bear, which some local residents called a nuisance. Gov. Tim Pawlenty then asked that the bear's life be spared, and officials looked for animal sanctuaries that might accept Solo and her cubs.
FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE NOT FAMILIAR WITH OSWALDS BEAR RANCH, IT IS A WONDERFUL FACILITY NORTH OF NEWBERRY, MICHIGAN FOR BEARS! OSWALDS IS ABOUT 5 MILES FROM US ON CR 407. VISIT THEIR WEBSITE AT http://www.oswaldsbearranch.com/.