The Black Bear is Back: Animal Could be Headed for Kane County

"While these animals once roamed the Illinois landscape 150 years ago, seeing one today can be, at the very least, a startling sight," IDNR director said.

Written by Shannon Antinori 

American black bears haven't roamed Illinois for 150 years, but at least one has returned, Illinois Department of Natural Resources officials said — and according to reports, the animal could be headed toward the Kane and Kendall county area.

Over the last two weeks, there have been at least seven sightings of a black bear in western Illinois. IDNR spokesman Chris Young told the Chicago Tribune officials believe it's the same young male.

The bear — possibly after being given the boot by his mother — probably came from Wisconsin and is likely looking for a mate or his own territory, Young said.

While it may seem like a no-brainer, IDNR Director Marc Miller had this bit of advice for anyone who spots a black bear: Keep your distance.

"While the black bear sighted most recently has shown no aggressive behavior towards humans, it should not be approached," Miller said. "Help us keep this bear from being accustomed to people. Always observe wildlife from a distance." 

Sightings have been reported in towns including Stockton, Freeport, Genoa and near Sycamore.

A Rockford woman spotted the bear while enjoying a cup of coffee on a recent Saturday morning.

“I was sitting at the breakfast table and he was just three feet outside the window,” Sheryl Hutchinson told Q98.5 in Rockford County. She said the bear drained her hummingbird feeder and sipped from a water lily pot before eating some berries and leaving.

Legislation protecting the black bear in Illinois passed this spring and has not yet been signed by Gov. Pat Quinn. If Quinn backs the legislation, it would not take effect until Jan. 1, 2015.

The Sun Times reported that the bear was spotted in DeKalb County Wednesday morning and could be headed toward Kane or Kendall county.

"There is no established bear population in Illinois, so it will probably keep wandering," IDNR Cmdr. Hank Frazier told the paper. While there is currently no plan in place to capture the bear if it wanders into a more populated area, IDNR officials are seeking advice from wildlife authorities in Wisconsin to form a game plan.

Miller said residents in areas where the bear has been spotted should remove bird feeders, keep pet food inside, and secure trash cans and barbecue grills.

"By removing easy sources of food for the bear, we can encourage it to stop searching for food near homes," Miller said. He urged residents to check out the Living with Wildlife in Illinois website for more information.


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