Black bear spotted in Indiana for first time since 19th century

SHARE Black bear spotted in Indiana for first time since 19th century

SOUTH BEND, Ind. (AP) — A bear spotted wandering in northern Indiana is the state’s first confirmed presence of a wild black bear in more than 140 years, state wildlife officials said Friday.

After the bear was spotted earlier this week in St. Joseph County in an area northwest of South Bend, a sample of one of its waste droppings was given to the Department of Natural Resources.

The DNR said Friday that wildlife biologist Budd Veverka examined that dropping and identified it as bear scat.

Although there have been occasional unconfirmed reports of bears in Indiana, the DNR said the St. Joseph County bear is Indiana’s first verified presence of a wild black bear since 1871. In that case, the bear was forced south from Michigan to escape a series of forest fires, the agency said.

The DNR said this week’s black bear also had walked into St. Joseph County from adjoining Michigan, which has an estimated black bear population of 15,000 to 19,000 bears.

Black bears have also recolonized eastern portions of Kentucky and Ohio.

“With black bears in some surrounding states, we were expecting a bear to show up eventually,” said DNR Wildlife Section chief Mitch Marcus. “It’s quite unusual and exciting for a Michigan lakeshore black bear to move this far south.”

Marcus said young black bears are known to seek new territory in the springtime in which to settle and “we expect this one to turn back north eventually.”

When settlers began arriving in the 1700s in what is now Indiana, black bears were found throughout the region, but their populations were soon decimated by habitat loss and hunting.

Black bears are now listed as an exotic mammal that’s protected under Indiana code.

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