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Last Summer's 'Indiana Bear' A Sign Of The Times, According To DNR

Graham Rosner

Last summer, a restless black bear wandered into northern Indiana, inciting a flurry of media coverage and even a parody twitter account.

The bear eventually returned to Michigan, but representatives from the Indiana DNR say in Indiana, when it comes to homesteading bears, it’s not a matter of if, but when they arrive.

DNR research biologist and in-house bear expert Budd Veverka says judging by what he sees in neighboring states such as Ohio and Kentucky, it’s likely Indiana will see a small bear population of 40 to 100 animals established in anywhere from the next two to 20 years.

"Bears are expanding into areas where they haven’t been for many, many years," he explains. "I expect the same for Illinois and Indiana, which are two of the last states remaining in the Midwest without reasonable number of bear sightings annually."

Despite what last July’s bear sighting might suggest, it’s most likely they’ll move into the more heavily-forested areas in the southern and eastern parts of the state. And even though the so-called “Indiana Bear” was spotted near homes, Veverka says it would be very rare to encounter a bear in a residential setting:

"They’re kind of termed as the ghosts of the forest," says Veverka, noting even in the Northeast, where he's from, there are hundreds, if not thousands of bears and it's still exciting news when a resident spots one. "They’re very quiet animals, they’re very conscious of humans. If you’re making any type of noise, many times you’ll never see a bear."

Veverka also says that because bears eat pretty much anything and everything, they aren’t expected to pose a significant threat to current food chains and ecosystems.

This month, the DNR will host a pair of educational programs to teach people about being “bear smart” and to respond to common questions the department’s been fielding since last year’s sighting. 

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