Sunday, May 16, 2011

Black Bear And Cub Spotted Near Tiskilwa

Peoria Journal Star

Tiskilwa —

For at least the second time in as many years, a black bear has made an appearance in Bureau County – this time with a young one in tow.

The Bureau County Sheriff’s Department took a call about 10:30 a.m. Saturday from residents who reported spotting two bears. Deputy Sheriff Sherry Barto went to the location of the sighting, in a field near Tiskilwa, and saw what she believed to be a black bear and her cub moving into brush. She was not able to photograph the creatures.

In February 2009, a black bear was found hibernating in a drainage ditch near Neponset, roughly in the same area of the county. That bear was tranquilized and taken to a Niabi Zoo in Coal Valley.

That animal had been spotted and photographed repeatedly in the county since the previous June. It was the first documented black bear found in the wild in Illinois in more than four decades.

Illinois Conservation Police Officer Sgt. Robert Frazier, who help capture the black bear in Neponset, was more than a little surprised to hear of another bear sighting in Bureau County. But given that the sighting was confirmed by a sheriff’s deputy, and the location was so near where the bear was captured last year, he’s taking it seriously.

“We get these reports all the time. People see mountain lions. They see bears,” Frazier said. “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.”

This is a potentially more serious situation than the lone bear that would have occasional sightings from residents for about eight months before being found asleep, Frazier said.

“If it’s a female and it’s got a baby, it’s possibly going to be more aggressive,” he said. “I would think her nurturing instinct would be to protect her cub. I wouldn’t be traipsing around in the woods looking for it.”

He also cautioned people to keep a healthy distance from the animals if people do encounter it and call the police immediately. At that point, if they can get a photo from a safe distance, that would help the Conservation Police determine the cub’s age, he said. They might try to approach an older cub differently than a newborn.

Neponset and Tiskilwa are about 18 miles apart. The proximity makes Frazier wonder whether the three bears weren’t kept on someone’s property.

“People sometimes take wild animals from the wild,” he 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.

“If there is indeed a bear and a cub, the big question I have is, how did they get there?”

Illinois has no law on the books protecting bears because they’re generally not found anywhere in the state. That means, legally, the bears could be hunted as long as the hunter had the property owner’s permission and was in compliance with firearms laws.

But there are laws against keeping certain wild animals.