The Illinois Department of Natural Resources Conservation Police and Monroe County Sheriff’s Department responded to multiple reports of a large bear seen roaming through rural backyards last Thursday morning between Waterloo and Valmeyer.
While no further reports have been called in locally, bear sightings were reported to the east near New Memphis this past weekend, Tuesday near Dubois and Thursday further south.
“No actual proof, but likely,” IDNR Conservation Police Officer Don Schachner responded when asked if the bear seen elsewhere is the same one spotted here.
On Friday, Schachner said there were reports of a bear seen near Rend Lake in Franklin County the day before.
“For what it’s worth, my concerns are if it continues south it may run into issues trying to get through Marion, which is fairly built up and congested,” Schachner said. “Hopefully it finds a good habitat corridor to bypass the congested areas.
The first local report of a bear sighting was called in about 8:45 a.m. June 10 in the 6100 block of Chantilly Bend off Old Baum Church Road west of Waterloo. Another homeowner in the 3700 block of Weeping Willow Court also saw the bear in its backyard before the bear went back into the woods.
Chantilly Bend resident Robin Brown took a picture of the bear in her yard that morning.
A resident in the 6400 block of Old Orchard Lane spotted the bear in his yard shortly after 10 a.m. June 10. About 90 minutes later, the bear was spotted behind Ken Valentine Auto Body, 3702 State Route 156, by people in a boat on the lake.
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department advised that people call 618-939-8651 with updates. This bear is a protected animal and police will only respond if the bear enters a residential area.
“Unless it comes into town or gets aggressive, it will be left in the rural area,” Monroe County Sheriff Neal Rohlfing said.
Schachner said that while it is brown in color, it is in fact a black bear.
“It’s a brown-phased black bear,” Schachner said.
Schachner said the bear, most likely a young male due to its roaming nature, probably crossed the Mississippi River to this area from Missouri or Arkansas.
“(The river) is not much of an obstacle to them,” he said. “They’ve been expanding and coming our way.”
Black bears mostly had been driven from Missouri by the 1950s, before neighboring Arkansas began reintroducing them in 1958, the Missouri Department of Conservation said.
In recent months, there have been numerous bears spotted in mid-Missouri. In May, a bear was tracked through St. Louis’ western suburbs before it was moved out of the area.
Schachner urged residents to refrain from feeding the bear, leaving trash cans outside for long, or leaving pet food outside for him to eat.
“Leave him be,” Schachner stressed. “Just enjoy him from a distance.”
Schachner said the bear should live comfortably in this region on its own if it so chooses.
“There’s plenty of natural food out there,” Schachner said. “He doesn’t need help.”
The Monroe County Sheriff’s Department posted the following advice on it Facebook page:
“If spotted, dial 911. DO NOT feed it, DO NOT approach, DO NOT shoot it, DO NOT leave dog or cat food outside, DO NOT put trash cans out until the day of pick-up.”
Dan Travous of the Clinton County Sheriff’s Office posted a video of the bear resting in a wooded area in the southwestern portion of that county near New Memphis over the weekend.
“We believe this is the same bear seen in the Waterloo area earlier (in the week),” Travous said. “It is most probably a young male looking for territory to call his own.”
On Tuesday morning, Schachner said there was a bear sighting in a Washington County cornfield near Dubois blacktop and Route 17.