INDIANAPOLIS (AP) – A black bear that roamed into Indiana from southwestern Michigan this summer and eventually returned home is back in the Hoosier State, raiding bird feeders and trash cans as it fattens up for winter hibernation, a wildlife biologist said Friday.
The juvenile male reached Indiana’s Michigan City area, just south of the Indiana-Michigan state line, early Thursday but may have slipped into Indiana the day before, said Budd Veverka, a farmland game research biologist with the Indiana Department of Natural Resources.
When the bear crossed into Indiana in early June it became the state’s first confirmed wild black bear sighting in 144 years. Hunting and habitat loss had eradicated the species in the 1800s.
Veverka said the bear was last seen in the Michigan City area in late July and is believed to have spent most of the past two months just north of the state line, feeding on native nuts, berries and insects that are becoming increasingly scarce.
Now that he’s back in Indiana he’s been raiding residents’ bird feeders and trash cans.
“A bear’s life is ruled by food. And now he’s trying to build weight, to build fat for winter. He’s trying to get food wherever he can,” Veverka said.
Pete Livas of Panos Farms, a Michigan City honey and herb farm about four miles south of the Indiana-Michigan state line, said the bear visited the farm early Thursday, upended a trash can and feasted on peanut butter and old honey in discarded jars.
He found the bear’s footprints in the area where the farm’s bee hives are kept, but those hives are now in winter storage. During the summer, however, the bear broke into some hives and devoured close to 10 pounds of honey, Livas said.
The bear has now visited the farm four times since June, but Livas said it hasn’t been too much of a problem. In fact, he and his wife find the elusive animal an amusing and interesting visitor.
“We think it’s kind of cool that’s he still around,” he said.
Veverka said the bear could possibly hibernate in the Michigan City area if it finds a suitable den such as a hollow tree. Black bears usually hibernate between late November and late December.
“At this point, I’d say it’s unlikely that he moves real far back north,” he said.