Residents and conservation officials along the Iowa-Minnesota border report seeing a black bear lumbering through their yards. Worth County Conservation Board Director Dean Mueller says he’s gotten several reliable reports of bear sightings from people in Worth and Mitchell counties.

He says the first report came last Friday when the local conservation officer called and said the bear was in the east end of Worth County, coming in from Mitchell County, while the Mitchell County conservation officer had also spotted it. Some people have gotten close enough to take pictures.

The Iowa Department of Natural Resources website says black bears are more common in Wisconsin and Minnesota and Mueller says it’s rare to see them in our state. Mueller says, “I’ve been in the county all my life and I can remember four or five moose coming down through here but this is the first time we’ve had a bear wander through the county.” He says the bear is likely just wandering around trying to find a good place to make a home.

Besides the sightings in Iowa, there have also been reports of a black bear being seen in southern Minnesota, around Albert Lea, Austin and Rochester. Mueller says it’s possible this is the same bear. If any Iowans should encounter the creature, he says the best thing to do is to call your local law enforcement agency.

He says they’d like to have reports on the bear’s whereabouts mainly for the safety of the animal. Mueller says if the bear crosses your path, it’s not likely going to attack you. He says black bears are not usually very aggressive unless you surprise them. He says the best bet is to stay away from it and don’t do anything to antagonize the bear.

The D.N.R. says June is breeding season for bears, with young males often forced out of their territories. A black bear was reported last year roaming across the northeastern Iowa counties of Winneshiek, Allamakee and Fayette. In 2008, state officials confirmed at least five sightings of black bears in Franklin, Davis, Freemont, Johnson and Winneshiek counties.

By Bob Fisher, KRIB, Mason City

Photo courtesy KIMT