Bear Spotted Roaming in Southern Indiana
By Gillian L.
A well-known black bear in Southeastern Indiana is now out of hibernation.
The infamous black bear from Kentucky has been seen on multiple occasions roaming around freely in Southern Indiana. This, however, is not the first year that the black bear has been seen. He has had prior incidents, such as last year in July, where he triggered a full day search in Harrison County. He is believed to have crossed the state lines from Kentucky, which has a growing bear population, to Indiana, last summer by swimming across the Ohio River from Louisville, Kentucky. Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources reports that the bear was seen in the Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge and likely hibernated in the refuge just north of the Ohio River city of Madison, Indiana.
Officials say he was recently spotted in a cornfield near the refuge. Refuge manager, Joe Robb, told the Courier-Journal that the bear went outside the refuge to eat but came back. “He just moves around,” Robb said. The people that were able to see the black bear have reported that he caused no harm and was just on the move. This is the second black bear sighting in the state of Indiana in the last two years and only the second bear confirmed in Indiana since the 1870s. Taylor Rasmussen, a mammalogist with Indiana, mentioned that this time of year is when black bears are on the move looking for food, which can be difficult to find during the spring season.
Black bears, like this one sighted, are protected under Indiana Administrative Code, which prohibits the killing of black bears except by a resident landowner or tenant while the animal is “destroying or causing substantial damage to property owned or leased by the landowner or tenant.” According to the DNR (Indiana Department of Natural Resources), black bears are generally not aggressive and prefer to flee when they come into contact with humans.
However, it is still recommended that people follow these guidelines, provided by the DNR, to maintain safety:
- Don’t intentionally feed bears. If a bear becomes accustomed to finding food near your home, it is likely to become a “problem” bear.
- Place garbage cans inside a garage or shed.
- Clean and store grills away after use.
- Don’t leave pet food outside overnight.
- Remove bird feeders and bird food from late March through November.
- Don’t add meat or sweets to a compost pile.
- If you encounter a bear, don’t run. Shout, wave your arms and back away slowly.
- Collect and remove low-hanging or fallen fruit from fruit trees.
- Eliminate meat, cooking oil, fish or fruit odors from near your home. This includes fish-meal fertilizers.
- Collect and remove any ripened vegetables from your garden.
- Protect beehives through the use of electric fencing.
If these guidelines are not followed it could lead to serious problems. Taylor Rasmussen, DNR mammalogist, stated that, “This usually results in the bear becoming a ‘problem’ bear, which in most cases results in the euthanasia of the bear…Following these guidelines will help keep the bear wild, which is the safest situation for everyone.” If the bear is seen the DNR encourages for residents to report their bear sightings to dfw@dnr.IN.gov or by calling (812) 334-1137 during normal business hours.