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Bear necessities

Bureau County bear-free for now

PRINCETON — Though no bear sightings have been reported so far this year in Bureau County, it could happen.

Bureau County Sheriff John Thompson said the recent black bear sightings in northern parts of the state should be at least noted by area residents. In recent days, black bear sightings have been confirmed in the Rockford, Polo and the Sycamore areas. It would not be out of the realm of possibility for a bear to travel into the Bureau County area, as they have done in other years, Thompson said.

Though black bears are typically not aggressive animals, they could become defensive and aggressive if they feel in danger or threatened, or if they would have a cub with them, the sheriff said.

“I don’t want to concern our residents, but I do want to tell them that if they would ever see a bear, they should avoid it. Don’t try to get closer to get a photo. Stay away from it,” Thompson said.

It’s not been that long ago that Bureau County had its own bear sightings, Thompson recalled.

In May 2010, the Bureau County Sheriff’s Department responded to a bear and cub sighting between Tiskilwa and Princeton, with the deputy also sighting the bear and its cub. That cub is now about 4 years old, Thompson said.

In June 2008, a black bear was spotted about a mile west of Sheffield and then again near the Mautino State Fish and Wildlife Area, between Buda and Sheffield. Three months later, the bear was seen on the Kentville Road near Neponset. In February 2009, the bear was seen again, this time apparently hibernating in a drainage ditch near Neponset. Conservation police and wildlife experts were notified and tranquilized the animal for transport to a wildlife area within the state.

On Wednesday, Illinois Department of Natural Resources Director Marc Miller issued a statement alerting Northern Illinois residents about the recent black bear sightings, after sightings were reported earlier that day in Genoa, 60 miles northwest of Chicago, and also in Rockford during the prior weekend.

“The recent sighting of an American black bear in Northwest Illinois has, understandably, generated many questions. While these animals once roamed the Illinois landscape 150 years ago, seeing one today can be, at the very least, a startling sight,” Miller said. “While the black bear sighted most recently has shown no aggressive behavior toward humans, it should not be approached. Help us keep this bear from being accustomed to people. Always observe wildlife from a distance.”

Miller recommended homeowners in the counties where the bear has been sighted remove their bird feeders from their properties, keep pet food inside, and secure trash cans and barbecue grills. By removing easy sources of food for the bear, hopefully that will encourage the bear to stop searching for food near homes, he said.

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