Officials euthanize Indiana’s first black bear in 140 years

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A photo of the black bear taken in July 2015 (Photo courtesy of Indiana DNR via IndyStar)

By Allison Carter, IndyStar

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. (April 12, 2016)– We must now bid farewell to Indiana’s first black bear in 140 years.

He was never truly ours; the roaming bear wandered back and forth across the Indiana-Michigan border for most of last summer. But to us, he was special … and also a problem.

The Michigan Department of Natural Resources confirmed to our partners at the IndyStar that the 2- to 3-year-old male was captured and humanely euthanized near Stevensville, Mich., about 30 miles from the Indiana border.

Although the bear was adorable in theory, in practice he became a menace. What started as harmless forays to Michigan City, Ind., turned into raiding trips on beehives and bird feeders. He stopped showing fear of humans or dogs. He even tried to enter an occupied home.

“It was a little bit unsettling for us,” said Mark Sargent, Southwest Wildlife field operations manager for the Michigan DNR.

Officials believe the bear hibernated in Michigan and became even more of a problem upon waking. Ten days before he was captured, the bear was spotted in the middle of the night on a man’s back porch. When the man turned on the lights and screamed because there was a bear in his backyard, the bear reared on its hind legs and tried to push through a glass door.

The bear weighed in at 300 pounds. “That’s the size of a bear who can get through a door, wall or a screen door,” Sargent said.

This threatening behavior meant Indiana’s bear rose to the second-highest level of threat in Michigan’s bear management protocol. So a trap was set on private lands near Grand Mere State Park, off Lake Michigan, and the bear was put down.

Over the past 25 years, more bears have been making their way from the Upper Peninsula to lower Michigan, Sargent said. Although more bears could make their way into Indiana, he’s not betting on it.

Rest in peace, bear. We’re sorry things had to end this way. Maybe it’s better if we see you only on our camping trips to Michigan, rather than in our backyards.

This story originally appeared on IndyStar.com.

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