Black bear sighting in Southwest Indiana prompts concern from nearby residents

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SOUTHWEST INDIANA (WEHT) – A confirmed black bear sighting over the weekend in northeast Vanderburgh County is prompting concerns among some community members.

Indiana DNR officials confirmed the black bear sighting before sunrise Sunday morning near Elberfeld, in Warrick County. A homeowner captured footage of the bear on their property and the DNR was able to make confirmation.

On Saturday, Warrick County Sheriff Mike Wilder said dispatchers received numerous calls about a possible black bear in the area of I-69 and I-64 near the Vanderburgh County line.

There were multiple confirmed sightings of a bear in Southern Illinois in recent days, including in the Crossville and Carmi areas.

“We don’t get anything like that around here, you think the Appalachians mountains and stuff like that, but not around here,” said Elberfeld resident Kathy Siegfried. 

Some people took to social media for a few laughs, but others say this is no joke.

“Actually I had my garage door open this morning to get the car out and I looked around to see if the bear was in the garage,” Siegfried said. “What would someone do if they come up to a bear, I mean first you’re going to be surprised, and then what do you do next?”

Some Elberfeld residents said there is still a lot of unknown, but the DNR has given many helpful tips. 

“Give that bear its space, you don’t want to corner any wild animal and make it feel like it’s being pursued by you,” explained Indiana Department of Natural Resources Mammalogist Brad Westrich. “So give it space, if you’re indoors stay indoors, if you’re in your vehicle stay in your vehicle, you don’t want to get out and expose yourself.”

Westrich said black bear sightings are no cause for alarm because bear populations are growing in neighboring states, including as close as Central and Eastern Kentucky. 

“The bear that is here in southern Indiana is likely a young male bear and in any bear population where young males are coming of age and are not quite breeding yet they are expanding in areas to find and establish a territory of their own,” Westrich said. 

According to the DNR, there have only been a handful of confirmed bear sightings in Indiana over the past 150 years. Conservation officers said this is now the fourth confirmed black bear sighting in Indiana in recent years.

DNR says black bears are rarely aggressive toward humans. Officials say if you see a black bear:

  • Do not feed it.
  • Observe it from a distance.
  • Do not climb a tree.
  • Advertise your presence by shouting and waving your arms and backing slowly away.
  • Report bear sightings to the Indiana Division of Fish & Wildlife here.

Some residents said they still have more questions than answers.

I was surprised a bear would be around in this heat, so I am wondering if it’s not in the wood someplace or the stripper pit bottoms, or you know a wooded area,” said Siegfried.

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