Andover first-graders push black bear as state’s official mammal

By T.W. Budig
ECM Capitol Reporter

Although the possible future state symbols may have hibernated through the whole thing, Andover first-graders were active on Monday, March 12 at the State Capitol on behalf of Ursus americanus, the black bear.

Andover Elementary first grader Grace Stone appeared before a Senate committee on March 12 to get the black bear named the state's official mammal. Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, who's carrying the legislation, sits to the left.

Sen. Michelle Benson, R-Ham Lake, is carrying legislation in the Senate to name the black bear the official mammal of Minnesota.

“A state symbol is a big deal,” said Benson, speaking after a Senate hearing.

No, it’s not as important as other things the legislature does, she explained.

“But it doesn’t happen very often,” she said of naming state symbols. “So when it does, it’s a big deal.”

Benson’s interest in black bear legislation was piqued after visiting teacher Dana Coleman’s first grade class at Andover Elementary School in Andover.

Coleman’s class has been studying black bears at the North American Bear Center in Ely.

Out of their studies, and the knowledge that Minnesota is only one of four states that do not have official state mammals, came the impetus for the legislation.

Stone in her testimony explained that bears will sometimes climb trees when frightened. “They get scared but they take care of their families,” she said.

A number of Andover students, some clutching stuffed bears, were on hand to see the Senate State Government and Innovation and

Minnesota is home to about 20,000 black bears. (Department of Natural Resources' photo)

Veterans Committee pass the black bear designation bill.

The committee also passed another piece of legislation, carried in the Senate by Sen. Gen Olson, R-Minnetrista, that would designate the fertile soil lester — one of some 900 soils in Minnesota — as the official state soil.

Olson, a retired educator, suggested to the committee that state symbols serve as invitations to learn.

Much is known about black bears.

Black bears can weigh up to 500 pounds, attain six feet in length.

Minnesota is home to about 20,000 black bears, according to the Department of Natural Resources.

Bears like heavy cover, the DNR notes, but can venture into open areas when feeding on corn or other crops.

Bears snort, huff, make popping sounds when alarmed or distressed. Cubs make humming sounds when happy, squealing sounds when frightened or alarmed.

Most black bears are found in the northern third of Minnesota, but the DNR notes they are found to the south to the extent forest and

Sen. Gen Olson, R-Minnetrista, has a bill that would name the fertile soil lester the state's official soil. Olson, who grew up on a farm and is a retired teacher, vies state symbols as educational devices. (Photo by T.W. Budig)

agricultural fields intersperse.

Black bears leave their winter dens usually in first part of April. Cubs will stay with their mothers for some 17 months.

State hunters harvested about 3,000 black bears a year.

Coleman was unable to attend today’s hearing.

But in a letter to the committee she noted the bear legislation showed “even first graders have a voice.”

She also pointed out that Minnesota grade school children were responsible for a number of recent state symbols becoming law.

She described her students as “inquisitive” and “passionate.”

“We need to pass this bill for this amazing group of first graders who’ve put their heart and soul into making this happen,” she said in a letter to the committee.

  • Viv Mueller

    I am so proud of Dana and her kids…..with the passion that these kids have shown….how can they not pass this bill? These bears have taught alot to them and us in the last 2 1/2 years we have been watching and learning….What a great achievment….

  • Jill Gilderman

    Dana Coleman has done an AWESOME job with the kids at the Andover Elementary School, teaching about the Black Bear!! They have the passion in their hearts to see this go all the way to the top! They not only learn hoe the Black Bears live, they also learn how the government is being run, out of this whole process

  • dave ward

    What an admirable tribute to all of the Black Bears & Bears world wide, in general!

  • dave ward

    What an admirable tribute to all of the Black Bears & Bears World Wide, in general!

    Much thanks to all research folks an volunteers that make this world a better understood place for all to enjoy and appreciate!

  • zach babin

    i think what these kids are doing is great. they are getting involved in politics, but are also doing somethink that peaks their interest. that being said though i dont think this bill should pass. i just dont feel like the black bear embodies minnesota. perhaps if another animal were proposed, like the eastern timberwolf or the gopher, then i could get behind it.

    • Jill Gilderman

      @ Zach, The black bear is a beautiful mammal and people just don’t realize the facts that about them like Dana has taught her kids! Yes it is great they are able to least and get involved in the politic world, it is not the only thing they have learned out of this whole journey! Dana has taught the kids about the birth of the black bears, the death of cubs, yearlings, older bears and also about the hunting of bears! What to do when you see a bear, I sure did not know all of this before! I was scared to death to even see a bear, (not saying I still wouldn’t be) I know now what to do if I did come upon a bear! these kids are our future and they are learning so much about wildlife and politics at the same time, I think that is something to be proud of, living in Minnesota! Thanks for listening!

  • paul simpson

    Congratulations to Dana Coleman and her class on having this legilsation pass the first hurdle. hopefully we will hear in the future that it has past the final post and become State Law. All that is needed now, is for someone to take up the cause to have ALL Black Bear habitat designated as under the control of the STATE PARK, then we would do away with Bar hunters, and the bears control would come under the STATE PARk Rangers responsibility, and there would not be indiscriminate killings.
    We live in hope for another School project .

Purchase Photos

menards flyer promo