Black bear in Illinois?
More bear storiesClick here to read a story from the July 1 Bureau County Republican. Click here to read a July 1 story int he LaSalle News Tribune. Interestingly enough, a 300-pound black bear was shot near Sheffield, Iowa on June 23. Click here to read that story and see pictures of an actual bear.
It wasn’t a lion, nor was it a tiger, but three separate sightings of a bear near Sheffield last week have the local residents sighing “Oh my!”
Randy Hasbrook, lieutenant investigator for the Bureau County Sheriff’s Department, confirmed that the local sheriff’s department received three “confirmed” sightings of a black bear last Thursday wandering on the west edge of Sheffield.
Hasbrook said the first account came from Tim Ries, owner of the Sheffield and Wyoming Plumbing and Hardware stores.
Ries reportedly sighted the black bear on the north side of the railroad tracks west of the Routes 34 and 6 junction west of Sheffield.
Hasbrook said Ries saw the bear standing on its back feet as if scouting out the area.
Another sighting was reported by David Behrens of rural Geneseo, who was was on a fishing trip with his son southwest of Sheffield near the Mautino State Fish and Wildlife Area.
Hasbrook said his son mistakenly thought the bear was a large dog and pointed the animal out to his father. Behrens realized it was a bear.
Hasbrook said the bear is estimated between 250-300 pounds.
The third sighting on was by Sheffield resident Robert Feurer.
Authorities said Feurer saw the bear as it wandered near the village landscape waste dumpsite on the west side of Sheffield.
Hasbrook said authorities are taking all three reports seriously and consider them legitimate.
“Although it’s a rare occurence, it doesn’t really surprise me either,” said Hasbrook. “There are bears living in the nearby states of Missouri, Kentucky and Wisconsin.”
Hasbrook said an abundant food supply including berries, grass, roots, insects and occasionally fish are readily available in the area and could easily satisfy the bear’s appetitite.
“Good food, and water from the nearby Coal Creek and the strip mine area, are all good resources for a bear of this type,” he said.
Hasbrook said the recent flooding and changes in the weather prompted a bear to migrate here.
He said the Illinois Department of Natural Resources has been informed of the bear sightings.
As of Tuesday, the Bureau County Sheriff’s Office had not received any additonal reports regarding the bear.
Hasbrook said his biggest concern is that no one makes an attempt to approach or hurt the bear.
“Chances are the bear is probably more scared of us than we are of it,” he said.
If necessary, he said, authorities would tranquilize the bear and relocate it.
Anyone who sees the bear should contact the Bureau County Sheriff’s Department, (815) 875-3344.
“We just don’t want to see anyone get hurt — including the bear — due to any unfortunate circumstances,” Hasbrook said.