Monday May 17, 2010

Bears in Illinois? Sighting Means It’s Possible

Springfield – State Journal-Register

Tiskilwa — Officially, there are no Bears loose in Illinois aside from the ones who wear helmets and shoulder pads eight Sundays a year at Soldier Field.

Unofficially, Bureau County Deputy Sheriff Sherry Barto believes she saw two of the wild, fur-covered variety Saturday morning in a field near Tiskilwa, about 50 miles north of Peoria.

People who live in the area reported seeing a mother and cub, and Barto, sure enough, saw what looked like a pair of bears about 10:30 a.m.

The animals were moving into some heavy brush, and she didn’t have a chance to get a photo, she said.

Illinois Conservation Police Sgt. Robert Frazier has heard all kinds of reports about sightings in areas where wild animals shouldn’t be.

“People see mountain lions. They see bears,” Frazier told the (Peoria) Journal Star. “And I’ve always halfway dismissed them. But then we find a mountain lion in Chicago. We find a bear in Bureau County. You can’t dismiss them.”

The mountain lion he referred to was found in Chicago in 2008, and the bear was found last year. It was hibernating in a drainage ditch near Neponset, less than 20 miles from Tiskilwa.

Frazier helped catch that bear, which was sent on to a zoo in Coal Valley in western Illinois.

A mother bear, he warned, could be aggressive.

“I would think her nurturing instinct would be to protect her cub,” Frazier said. “I wouldn’t be traipsing around in the woods looking for it.”

And he wonders, given the proximity to last year’s bear find, whether that bear and these two — if the animals spotted Saturday really were bears — were kept by someone on their property.

“People sometimes take wild animals from the wild,” Frazier said. “They think they’re cute, and then the darn thing gets bigger, does damage to the home, gets out, and it’s not such a good idea.”