INDIANA – The black bear that has been seen in Vanderburgh, Warrick and Pike counties is now getting into garbage and is likely still roaming around southern Indiana, according to Indiana DNR. DNR’s last confirmed report of the bear was on July 8 in Pike County.

“Seeking out easily accessible food is normal behavior for many wild animals,” said Brad Westrich, DNR mammologist. “Unfortunately, bears can become sick or even die when they eat items from our garbage.”

DNR officials say if trash or recycling containers are easily accessible, the bear could start to associate people’s homes with a place to find food. To protect the bear and personal property, and residents in Pike and surrounding counties should secure those and other potential human-generated outdoor food sources.

• Store garbage cans and recycling containers inside a garage or shed.
• Put garbage cans and recycling containers on the curb the morning of pick-up rather than on the night before.
• Avoid putting meats, sweets, bones, or grease in compost piles.
• Remove or secure other potential food sources for bears, such as livestock feed or pet food.

Westrich says that when bears discover food around people’s homes, they can damage personal property trying to get at it and begin to lose their natural fear of humans, which can put both in danger. In these situations, DNR must then implement a technique called aversive conditioning to correct this behavior. Aversive conditioning methods, such as spotlights and airhorns, are stressful for the bear. Once a bear regularly seeks food sources near humans, these techniques can become necessary for the safety of the bear and people. Residents can help DNR avoid needing to use these methods by removing potential food sources.

DNR’s last confirmed report of the bear was on July 8 in Pike County. In the Tri-State area, we first began hearing reports of a bear sighting on June 21 in the Springerton, Illinois area. Then the bear was sighted in the Crossville area. DNR officials said the bear crossed the Mississippi River from Missouri into Illinois several weeks earlier.

If you see a bear, report it to the DNR at Biologists use these reports to monitor bear activity and provide recommendations to local residents.