Wildlife officials believe that the only wild bear in Indiana may have returned to its home state, and this time for good. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) originally reported in June that a young male black bear wandered across the state line from Michigan and moved into St. Joseph County. It quickly caused a stir as the first confirmed bear sighting in the state since 1871.
“With black bears in some surrounding states, we were expecting a bear to show up eventually,” Mitch Marcus, Wildlife Section chief for the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife, said at the time. “It’s quite unusual and exciting for a Michigan lakeshore black bear to move this far south. Michigan DNR officials told us this is the southernmost black bear movement in more than a decade.”
The rambunctious bear wore out its welcome after ransacking local homes and destroying property. Complaints about the animal prompted wildlife officials to borrow two large bear traps from the Michigan DNR to capture the animal. If that did not work, DNR officials said they would be required to tranquilize the bear and relocate it that way.
After weeks without a confirmed sighting, officials now say that the bear is either heading towards Michigan or is already in that state. The South Bend Tribune reported that the Indiana DNR have returned the bear traps and will no longer be actively trying to capture the animal. The bear may be migrating back to more familiar areas, such as Muskegon, to pack on some additional weight before the winter hibernation. If that is the case, then Indiana’s first brush with bear management since the nineteenth century will have resolved itself on its own. However, the bear has flirted with the state line before, only to come back to Indiana, so it remains to be seen if it will decide to stay in Michigan permanently this time.
According to DNR officers stationed in Michigan City, the last sighting of the bear was in the Rolling Prairie area several weeks ago, where the bear apparently plundered a couple of bird feeders. At the very least, looking for the bruin has provided an interesting training exercise for conservation officers.