After all the breathless media coverage, fretting and gnashing of teeth last year when a young Michigan bear had the audacity to invade Indiana, the second bear to enter our state in the last 140 years is drawing a decidedly less-panicky response.
This second Indiana bear was last seen Friday morning near Henryville and Sellersburg in Clark County. It has also been spotted at Deam Lake State Recreation Area. Earlier in the week, it created quite a stir when discovered wandering around Corydon. During the ensuing circus, the Harrison County Animal Control Officer resigned after he was ordered to not shoot the animal.
According to officials, it would appear the young Kentucky bear, estimated to weigh about 300 pounds, swam across the Ohio River and began foraging around southern Indiana. It is not unusual for young male bears to wander widely while seeking food and new territory to inhabit.
There is also now a second, unrelated bear being reported just south of Louisville in Bullitt County, Kentucky.
Officials are not attempting to track or monitor the Indiana bruin but are warning residents to practice good “bear habits,” such as not feeding the bear, taking garbage cans inside and temporarily removing bird feeders.
The bear was first spotted Sunday evening, July 17, by residents as it crossed a highway in Harrison County. A photograph of the animal taken by a local resident appears on the Facebook page for the Harrison County 911 Center. Authorities went door-to-door on that Sunday evening warning residents about the sighting.
This ruckus follows on the heels of the “famous” northern Indiana bear seen last summer and fall near Michigan City. That bear was the first to officially live in Indiana since sometime in the 1860’s. Unfortunately, the bear became too much of a pest and was eventually trapped and euthanized due to its habit of raiding barns, outbuildings and homes.
So far, this Indiana bear has been more cautious about bothering the human inhabitants of Southern Indiana.
Wildlife officials agree that black bears will probably inhabit the state, especially the rugged areas of south-central Indiana within the next 10 years. “It is possible black bears may re-establish populations in the southern half of our state,” said Sam Whiteleather of the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife in a press release.
As there are stable populations of black bears in eastern Kentucky, the northern half of Michigan and much of Missouri, it is likely the populations will eventually expand to fill suitable habitat like that in southern Indiana. As this bear doesn’t seem to be (so far) such as nuisance as bear #1, it might be vanguard of our next big story in the Hoosier outdoors.
Indiana has now had two confirmed reports of bears, at least two involving wolves, a mountain lion and countless wild pigs, not to mention all the established and expanding wild elk herds in surrounding states. It stands to reason that the Hoosier hiking trails our children and grandchildren tread will be wilder than we could have imagined even a decade ago.