Black bear expected to emerge soon from hibernation in southeastern Indiana

Photo of black bear near Corydon from July 2016

MADISON, Ind. – Any day now, a black bear believed to be hibernating in southeastern Indiana will wake up.

Officials with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources said the bear was spotted at Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge in November. They believe the bear spent the winter there and will emerge from hibernation in late winter or early spring to find food and water.

Depending on the weather, that could happen as early as this month.

The DNR confirmed the bear’s presence near Corydon last July and monitored its progress through southern Indiana. It is the second bear confirmed in the Hoosier State in the last two years.

Officials believe the bear swam across the Ohio River from Kentucky, which has seen an expanding bear population in recent years.

Black bears are protected under Indiana Administrative Code, which prohibits the killing of black bears except by a resident landowner or tenant while the animal is “destroying or causing substantial damage to property owned or leased by the landowner or tenant.”

According to the DNR, black bears are generally not aggressive and prefer to flee when they come into contact with humans.

The DNR provided the following guidelines:

  • Don’t intentionally feed bears. If a bear becomes accustomed to finding food near your home, it is likely to become a “problem” bear.
  • Place garbage cans inside a garage or shed.
  • Clean and store grills away after use.
  • Don’t leave pet food outside overnight.
  • Remove bird feeders and bird food from late March through November.
  • Don’t add meat or sweets to a compost pile.
  • If you encounter a bear, don’t run. Shout, wave your arms and back away slowly.
  • Collect and remove low-hanging or fallen fruit from fruit trees.
  • Eliminate meat, cooking oil, fish or fruit odors from near your home. This includes fish-meal fertilizers.
  • Collect and remove any ripened vegetables from your garden.
  • Protect bee hives through the use of electric fencing.

The DNR said following the guidelines is essential to keeping people and bears safe. A bear that becomes accustomed to human foods will continue to seek them out, leading to problems.

“This usually results in the bear becoming a ‘problem’ bear, which in most cases results in the euthanasia of the bear,” said DNR mammologist Taylor Rasmussen. “Following these guidelines will help keep the bear wild, which is the safest situation for everyone.”

Indiana DNR encourages residents to report bear sightings to dfw@dnr.IN.gov or by calling (812) 334-1137 during normal business hours.