By Jim Hagerty
Although the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office has announced its plans to deal with the black bear spotted in the area, Winnebago County Board member Ted Biondo, R-20, says there needs to be an official policy in place.
“We need a policy in our county, and other counties, that if there is a bear sighting, who goes to the scene and what do you use to tranquilize the bear?” Biondo said in a report by WIFR-TV.
When Sheryl Hutchinson was surprised by a black in her yard last Saturday, June 7, she snapped a few photographs, then called police. Sheriff’s deputies responded and issued several public statements instructing residents what to do if they spot or come in contact with the animal. Sheriff’s spokesmen said the department would tranquilize the bear and transport it to Wisconsin with the help of a wildlife group if necessary.
Aside from a statement by IDNR Director Marc Miller reminding the public to stay clear of the bear, the sheriff’s department and other local police agencies have been following its path.
After sauntering out of Hutchinson’s yard, the bear was seen in Roscoe, Belvidere, Genoa and Sycamore. Police say it may be the same bear spotted in Freeport and Stockton a few days earlier. Saturday, May 24, a property owner in Galena, Ill., photographed a black bear near a back-yard bird feeder.
According to bearsmart.com, black bears are often captured by wildlife officials and removed from situations of conflict. Bears are trapped, snared, or tranquilized.
“(Tranquilization) is the most frequently administered to bears by a dart from a capture gun or by a two-metre-long jab stick with a syringe mounted on the end,” the site said.
Common in Wisconsin and Michigan, black bears are active during the day, yet tend to stay hidden by forest cover. At night, bears will rummage through trash and campsites, and roam neighborhoods in search of food. Omnivores, black bears feed on berries, larvae, fruits and plants. They are also known for eating fish and other small animals. While rare, black bears will ambush deer.
Unlike grizzlies, black bears rarely attack when approached by people, but can be territorial and aggressive around food. Females are also known to snort and growl when humans approach their cubs. Most black bear attacks happen in parks, where they forage at campsites and tourists feed them. Only a handful of black bear attacks are reported each year.
Although there are no laws against killing black bears Illinois, they have been added to the list of animals spared under the Illinois Endangered Species Protection Act. A bill adding bears, cougars and gray wolves is awaiting Gov. Pat Quinn’s signature
Black bears are natives to Illinois but were driven out by hunters and industry in the 1870s. Officials say our recent visitor is a young male that wandered here from Wisconsin searching for food and a mate. Born blind, cubs stay with their mothers for up to two years before venturing off on their own.
Anyone who spots a black bear is urged to contact the Winnebago County Sheriff’s Office at (815) 319-6000.