After wandering through farm fields in northeast Iowa, an adult black bear is now near Davenport and the Iowa Department of Natural Resources is warning people to steer clear.
Perhaps 150 spectators in dozens of vehicles gathered near the animal as it lumbered through Jackson, Clinton and Scott counties this week. Now that the 400-pound bear has reached the Quad Cities area, Vince Evelsizer, a furbearer biologist with the DNR, says serious concerns are rising.
“It’s a busy area with people,” Evelsizer says. “We would really encourage folks to give this bear space. It’s hot out right now. We don’t want to bother what it’s doing, so it’s in the best interests of the animal to just stay way away from it and let it go where it wants to go and do what it wants to do.”
Some spectators are venturing within 30 feet of the bear to capture selfies while others have been flying over it with drones. That behavior is unacceptable, Evelsizer says, and the danger increases as more people crowd in. “When the crowds gather near a bear, it increases the odds for there to be a traffic accident,” Evelsizer says. “It also increases the odds for there to be a human safety conflict between the bear and people.”
One conservation officer described the scene along a fenceline north of Interstate 80 this week as “a circus.” Cars and trucks were parked along the gravel road, children were darting between vehicles and into traffic, and in the middle of it all was the large, wild animal that’s likely on the hunt for a mate.
“It stresses the bear and probably blocks where it’s trying to go and what it’s trying to do,” Evelsizer says. “It is neat that we have a bear back in Iowa. They are native to our state, but it is also really important to just really give them their space.”
A conservation officer in eastern Iowa says the crowds unintentionally directed the bear toward a highway earlier this week. He warned that people parking illegally along roads will soon start being ticketed and that this misbehavior could force the need to tranquilize and relocate the bear.