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Black Bear In Southern Indiana Should Wake Soon From Hibernation
Updated February 16, 2017 7:24 AM | Filed under: Natural Resources
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(UNDATED) - The black bear in southern Indiana should be soon waking from hibernation.

This is the second confirmed black bear in the state in 144 years. Remember to keep your distance and to remove all attractants if you live near Big Oaks National Wildlife Refuge.

Black bears (Ursus americanus) were historically abundant across Indiana, excluding the northwest portions of the state dominated by prairie. Unregulated hunting and habitat loss caused black bears to be extirpated from Indiana and much of the Midwest by 1850. Before 2015, when a black bear entered the state at the Michigan border, the last confirmed report of a black bear in Indiana was in 1871.

In June 2015, wildlife biologists with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources verified the presence of a black bear in St. Joseph County. The bear was believed to be a young male. It spent most of the next five months in Indiana and was last reported in the state on Oct. 13, 2015.

In March 2016, the bear emerged from its winter den in Michigan and, unfortunately, exhibited habituated behaviors, including a loss of fear of humans. Based on the Michigan Department of Natural Resources' (MI DNR) "Problem Bear Management Guidelines," such behaviors are considered a threat to public safety. Consequently, the MI DNR trapped and humanely euthanized the bear on April 9, 2016.

In July 2016, a black bear was confirmed in southern Indiana in Harrison, Washington and Clark counties.


If you would like to report a sighting, use our online large mammal report form. The Indiana Division of Fish & Wildlife occasionally receives reports of large mammals such as mountain lions, gray wolves and black bears. There are no breeding populations of these species in Indiana. However, individuals may pass through Indiana from established populations in other states.


  • They are stocky animal with short legs.
  • Typically, males weigh 150-400 pounds and females weigh 100-250 pounds.
  • In the Eastern United States, black bears typically have a thick black coat with a tan muzzle.
  • They are omnivorous, feeding on grass, seeds, berries, insects, rodents and deer carcasses.
  • Black bears are intelligent with a keen sense of smell and hearing.
  • Young bears, particularly males, may travel long distances, up to 20 miles per day, into new areas, before retreating to establish a territory closer to the primary range.
  • Black bears are generally very timid and not aggressive towards people.
  • They are crepuscular, meaning they are usually active at dawn and dusk.


Residents in many states co-exist peacefully with black bears. They do this by not harassing bears and keeping attractants (food sources) away from them. Once a bear associates humans with a reliable food source, they will almost always seek those again, regardless of where they are released.

Bears can smell food from more than a mile away, so it's important to secure food sources and discourage animals from associating humans and human dwellings with food.

To reduce or eliminate bear-human conflicts please observe the following tips:

  • DO remove bird feeders and bird food from late March through November.
  • DO clean and store grills away after use.
  • DO eliminate food attractants by placing garbage cans inside a garage or shed.
  • DO pick ripe fruits and vegetable ASAP, or place an electric fence around them, to ensure bear cannot reach them.
  • DON'T intentionally feed bears. Bears that become accustomed to finding food near your home may become "problem" bears.
  • DON'T leave pet food outside overnight.
  • DON'T add meat or sweets to a compost pile.
  • DON'T climb a tree, but wait in a vehicle or building for the bear to leave the area.

REMEMBER: Black bears are rarely aggressive toward humans. Most problems arise when bears associate food with humans. Do not feed bears; doing so increases the likelihood of negative bear-human interactions.

Unfortunately, a fed bear often becomes a dead bear due to increased aggressiveness associated with the loss of fear of humans.


  • Enjoy it from a distance.
  • Do not climb a tree.
  • Advertise your presence by shouting and waving your arms and backing slowly away.
  • Never attempt to feed or attract bears.
  • Report bear sightings to the Indiana Division of Fish & Wildlife at (812) 334-1137, through email at, or online.


Black bears, once a native species in Indiana, are now listed as an exotic mammal and protected under Indiana Administrative Code 312 9-3-18.5 (b-1), which prohibits the killing of a black bear 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."

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