Indiana DNR may tranquilize bear, return it to Michigan
Indianapolis — A wild black bear that’s become increasingly brazen while roaming far northern Indiana for more than a month may need to be tranquilized for authorities to capture the animal and return it to Michigan, a state biologist said Tuesday.
The bear entered Indiana from southwestern Michigan in early June, becoming Indiana’s first confirmed wild black bear presence since 1871. In the past two weeks, the young male has made a growing number of forays onto residential property, said Budd Veverka, an Indiana Department of Natural Resources farmland game research biologist.
He said the bear has damaged garbage cans and bird feeders, climbed onto patios and porches and even pounded on the doors of several homes in the Michigan City area, leaving behind muddy paw prints and nervous residents.
“He’s now becoming a bit of a problem bear. He’ll come up on porches, close to houses, sometimes looking in windows, and scare people a little bit more. He’s now kind of expecting things from people,” Veverka said.
Black bears are typically shy and tend to avoid humans. Veverka said the bear’s recent habits point to the need to remove the animal from Indiana soon to protect both it and humans from possible injury in an encounter.
The DNR said black bear attacks are rare, and the animals typically flee when they encounter humans. Black bears are protected under Indiana law and are listed as an exotic mammal.
The Michigan City area, about 60 miles east of Chicago, is filled with woods where the bear can hide out.
Veverka said the most recent sighting was Sunday night, when the bear frightened a couple, and came close to a man who fled indoors and quickly closed the door behind him.
The DNR remains hopeful that it will be able to trap the bear in one of two barrel traps staff have set up with doors that close when the animals seize the bait inside.
If those traps don’t capture the bear and DNR staff can’t use lights, firecrackers or rubber bullets to drive the bear back across the Michigan state line, Veverka said the “last resort” would be using a gun that fires tranquilizer darts to sedate the animal.
“Our focus is not on tranquilizing him — that’s just one of our options,” he said.
Veverka, who is based in Bloomington, recently traveled to the Michigan City area to oversee efforts to capture the bear. He hopes that can be accomplished within a few days.
Once the bear is captured, Indiana DNR staff will turn the animal over to their Michigan counterparts for eventual release in one of that state’s northern counties, said Jordyn Richardson, a wildlife outreach technician with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.
Michigan has an estimated black bear population of between 15,000 and 20,000 and such relocations are done a few times each year — normally in the state’s northern, rural counties, she said.