A lone black bear believed to be hibernating in Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge is likely to wake soon, according to the DNR.
This black bear was last spotted in November in the refuge, and wildlife officials believe it spent the winter there. Bears often emerge from hibernation in late winter or early spring to find food and water.
Depending on weather, the bear could emerge as soon as mid-February.
The DNR confirmed the bear’s presence last July near Corydon and monitored its movement through southern Indiana. This is the second bear confirmed by the DNR Division of Fish & Wildlife in Indiana in the last two years.
Young, male black bears disperse in the spring to establish their own territory and find mates. This bear most likely swam across the Ohio River from Kentucky, which has an expanding bear population.
Black bears are protected under Indiana Administrative Code 312 9-3-18.5 (b-1), which prohibits the killing of a black bear except by a resident landowner or tenant while the animal is “destroying or causing substantial damage to property owned or leased by the landowner or tenant.”
Black bears are not aggressive in most situations and prefer fleeing from humans when given the chance. DNR wildlife biologists offer the following bear awareness tips:
—Don’t intentionally feed bears. If a bear becomes accustomed to finding food near your home, it is likely to become a “problem” bear.
—Place garbage cans inside a garage or shed.
—Clean and store grills away after use.
—Don’t leave pet food outside overnight.
—Remove bird feeders and bird food from late March through November.
—Don’t add meat or sweets to a compost pile.
—If you encounter a bear, don’t run. Shout, wave your arms and back away slowly.
—Collect and remove low-hanging or fallen fruit from fruit trees.
—Eliminate meat, cooking oil, fish or fruit odors from near your home. This includes fish-meal fertilizers.
—Collect and remove any ripened vegetables from your garden.
—Protect bee hives through the use of electric fencing.
Remember that the best way to keep both humans and bears safe is to follow these guidelines. If a bear becomes accustomed to human foods it will continue to seek these foods out, according to DNR mammalogist Taylor Rasmussen.
“This usually results in the bear becoming a ‘problem’ bear, which in most cases results in the euthanasia of the bear,” Rasmussen said. “Following these guidelines will help keep the bear wild, which is the safest situation for everyone.”
Indiana DNR encourages citizens to report bear sightings to dfw@dnr.IN.gov or by calling (812) 334-1137 during regular business hours. Photos or videos can be sent to the same email address.
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