Illinois hunting and fishing

Bureau County black bear captured

February 04, 2009 at 11:36 AM

NEPONSET — A black bear that had been photographed multiple times roaming Bureau County has been captured and moved to a zoo near Moline.

The approximately 200-pound animal was first seen west of Sheffield in late June and has been repeatedly spotted in the months since, most recently in mid-January southwest of Buda.

The bear was found again Tuesday, apparently hibernating in a drainage ditch near Neponset - roughly 10 miles northeast of Kewanee - where conservation police and wildlife experts tranquilized the animal for transport to the Niabi Zoo in Coal Valley.

The LaSalle News Tribune reported that the bear was found sleeping by a farmer who was driving a four-wheeler through a field.

“It was laying out there in the ditch, about a quarter mile off the road,” said Illinois Conservation Police Sgt. Robert Frazier, who was on the scene of the capture. “It was asleep, hibernating. We walked up to within 10 feet of it and darted it.

“It was real smooth and without incident,” he said.

The IDNR and conservation police used trapping equipment on loan from the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources to remove the bear.

The Niabi Zoo is a U.S. Department of Agriculture licensed facility that is permitted to possess bears, according to the Illinois Department of Natural Resources. The bear was in good health when it arrived at the zoo, where it will receive any necessary veterinary care.

The IDNR said in a release about the capture that the animal is suspected to have been in human care before its release or escape, though an investigation is under way to officially make that determination.

Biological samples have been taken from the bear for testing, to reconcile whether the specimen is wild or captive-bred.

“Who knows, maybe we can say we have bears in Illinois now,” Frazier said.

According to a DNR press release:

Officers from the Illinois Conservation Police consulted with federal, state and county wildlife and law enforcement agencies to formulate a plan of response to the bear’s presence. After reviewing several options, officials decided it was best to attempt to take the bear alive and place it in an approved facility. Upon arrival at the facility the bear was in good health and will receive proper food, shelter and veterinarian care. An investigation is underway to determine the bear’s origin.