March 22 • 08:25 AM

Bear sighting reported in Imlay

Sisters catch glimpse of animal cavorting in woods behind Viscount Pools

March 11, 2009
IMLAY CITY — It wasn't "Big Foot," but two employees of Viscount Pool Spa & Billiards, 1843 S. Van Dyke, swear they saw a bear cub cavorting in a wooded area behind the business Monday morning.

Viscount store manager Stefanie Morse and her sister, Kristal Smith, an employee at the business, say they saw the animal playing in a tree at around 9:30 a.m.

"We had just opened the back door and were talking when I caught something in the corner of my eye," recalls Morse, who estimates the animal at 3-4 feet tall. "It was quite large and was climbing up a tree."

A closer look revealed what the sisters are convinced was a small bear.

"There's no question about what it was," says Morse. "I'd never seen anything like it.

Sisters Stefanie Morse and Kristal Smith point to area behind Viscount Pool Spa & Billards, where they spotted a bear cub playing in the woods. photo by Tom Wearing.

"It was so cute," Smith adds. "It was wrapping itself around the tree and hopping up on it. It was having all sorts of fun."

Morse said her husband, who did not see the bear, walked out to the wooded area but could not find the animal.

Neither could Imlay City police officers who investigated the incident.

"Two of our officers responded to the call and went out into the woods on foot," says Police Chief John Stano. "They were unable to locate any evidence of the animal."

Stano admits that the wooded area behind the business in the Kroger Plaza could be a suitable environment for bears. He notes that similar reports of bear sightings have taken place in the area in recent years.

"Some of our longer serving officers recall having responded to similar reports in the past," says Stano.

Morse and Smith point to the unsubstantiated reports of bear sightings from a man who walks near the woods as further evidence of what they witnessed.

"He's an older man who walks his dog back there," says Smith. "He'd told us he'd seen bears. We just laughed. We thought he was crazy."

Morse was able to take some photos of the animal from her vantage point behind the store, but the animal's image is difficult to discern.

"We tried to get its attention," she says, "but it froze for a second and then took off."

If there is a bear in the woods behind the Kroger complex, Stano advises residents to keep out of its way.

"If you happen to see a bear, avoid it," he warns. "They may look cute, but they're wild animals."

In the meantime, Stano intends to contact the Department of Natural Resources to report the incident and find out if any other local sightings have been reported.

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