Indiana not ready to deal with wandering black bears

Associated Press

Indianapolis — Wildlife officials in Indiana say they’re not sure what they would do if they caught a black bear wandering the state’s border with Michigan.

The Indianapolis Star reports Michigan wildlife officials last week chose to euthanize an aggressive black bear spotted near the border. Michigan updated its response plan in 2011 to account for an increase in its bear population. But Indiana’s Department of Natural Resources says it doesn’t have a similar plan in place because the black bear was the first sighting in the state since 1871.

“We’ve not had to face that decision here. Indiana has not had a resident bear population (since) before the Civil War,” department spokesman Phil Bloom said.

He said Indiana plans to develop its own bear management strategy, but nothing is imminent.

“It was discussed last year,” Bloom said. “We’re looking at doing that more down the road.”

According to the National Wildlife Federation, the black bear population is rising in states where the animals have not been seen in years.

The population increase in Michigan can be attributed tomany factors, including changes in hunting rules, bears becoming more comfortable in urban spaces, and bears moving longer distances to get to food, said Mark Sargent, a field operations manager for the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Michigan’s plan recommends hunting as the main way to control the bear population. Education and outreach to communities about bear safety are also major parts of the strategy.