Wildlife
4:57 pm
Wed June 11, 2014

Rare In Illinois, Black Bear On The Move

black bear
A black bear is seen near Genoa, in DeKalb County, on the morning of Wednesday, June 11, 2014.
Credit DeKalb County Sheriff’s Dept. via Illinois Dept. of Natural Resources

A black bear has been spotted in northern Illinois, heading east across the state. The species was once well represented in Illinois, but they've been quite rare for more than a century.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources says a bear hasn't been spotted in Illinois since 2009. Now there have been multiple sightings in the last week or so — from outside Galena, through Rockford, and most recently near Genoa, in DeKalb County.

Agency spokesman Chris Young says these reports are thought to be the same animal.

He advises residents in the area to remove backyard bird feeders, barbecues, garbage — anything a bear might find delicious.

"That's one thing we don't want to teach this bear: that it can find food in people's backyards," Young says. "We want it to remain a wild animal. We don't want it to become a nuisance bear. We don't want it to become a problem. We just want it to go on its way."

This spring lawmakers voted to add black bears to Illinois' list of protected species. The measure still needs to be acted on by the governor, and even if approved, landowners would have the right to kill bears if they're threatening people, animals, or property.