Indiana biologists educating residents about black bears

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — Indiana biologists want residents to be more informed about black bears and their behavior after one roamed into the state this summer.

The Indiana Department of Natural Resources held a workshop about the bears Wednesday night in South Bend and one is planned Thursday night in Michigan City. The bear came to Indiana from southwestern Michigan in June and returned home but was confirmed back in Indiana earlier this month.

Budd Veverka and Megan Dillon, wildlife biologists with the state agency, said it’s likely the bear plans to hibernate in Indiana for the winter. They also said it is likely more black bears will be seen in Indiana as populations in neighboring states increase.

“The search for food dominates the life of a bear,” Veverka said, making them apt to raid bird feeders, trash cans, grills and anything else edible left outdoors.

The bear’s arrival in Indiana became the state’s first confirmed wild black bear sighting in 144 years. They were once native to Indiana but hunting and habitat loss had eradicated the species in the 1800s.

The agency tried to trap the bear and return it to a wilderness area in Michigan but the bear ripped a trap, Veverka said. Scientists said that he is a 4-year-old male weighing about 250 pounds.

“I think it’s really great there’s different wildlife moving into the area,” said Michael Jaworski, a resident of St. Joseph County who attended the South Bend session.

Dillon advised Indiana residents not to feed the bear because that would lead it to associate people with food. She said people should raise their arms and shout to scare the bear away if it comes close.

“Don’t run from a bear. That’s the worst thing you can do,” she said.

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