A black bear spotted across Southern Indiana – including Harrison, Washington and Scott Counties last summer is expected to wake from its winter hibernation soon.
The Indiana Department of Natural Resources said in a news release that the lone black bear has been hibernating in the Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge.
The bear was last spotted in November in the refuge, and officials believe it stayed there for the winter. Bears typically wake up from hibernation in late winter or early spring to find food and water. The Southern Indiana bear could emerge any day now, depending on the weather.
DNR first confirmed the bear’s presence near Corydon in July and has since monitored its movement throughout the region. It is the second confirmed bear sighting in the last two years.
The bear entered Washington County from the south and proceeded east to Pekin and then to the Henryville State Forest and on to Madison.
Young, male black bears “disperse” in the spring to find their own territory and find mates. The bear in Madison likely swam across the Ohio River form Kentucky, which has a growing bear population, according to DNR.
State administrative code prohibits the killing of black bears, except by a landowner or tenant if the bear is “destroying or causing substantial damage to property owned or leased by the landowner or tenant.”
DNR officials say black bears are not aggressive in most situations and “prefer fleeing from humans when given the chance.” Officials recommend the following tips “to keep both humans and bears safe”:
• 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.
Indiana DNR wants residents to report bear sightings to [email protected] or by calling 812-334-1137 during regular business hours. Photos or videos can be sent to the same email address.