Did bear wander here from north?
JOHNSON CREEK -- A bear that appeared in the yard of a Johnson Creek man Tuesday morning was likely driven out of northern Wisconsin by competition from other bears.
Sam Jonas, Jefferson County wildlife biologist, told the Daily Times Wednesday the bear was likely a younger male that wanted his own territory, something he was not able to find up north.
Jonas said bear sightings outside of the common range of northern Wisconsin are becoming more common.
“The established bear population in northern Wisconsin has expanded its range in recent years,” Jonas said. “Bears have recently emerged from dens, yearlings are becoming independent, and young males often disperse and travel great distances in search of their own territory. It’s usually these young males that show up in our southern counties.”
Jonas said the DNR is always interested in verifying and investigating sightings of black bears in new areas of the state. However, it is primarily interested in ensuring that the bear is healthy and acting normally, and in dealing with citizen concerns.
“Generally, if given space, bears will simply go on about their business,” Jonas said. “However, if bears do begin to exhibit nuisance behaviors, or seem acclimated to people, we will respond with direct interventions, as necessary, to address the situation.”
The bear may have gone unnoticed longer were it not for the fact it walked past a security camera attached to the home of Rocco Bartolotta who lives near a wooded area of Johnson Creek north of Interstate 94.
Jonas said there were a few other reports of a sighting, as well.
Jonas said the bear appears to have done little damage other than knocking down a few bird feeders in search of food.
Johnson Creek Police Chief Gary Bleecker acknowledged he and his department were aware of this rare incident.
“I do know there was a black bear in the village, north of Interstate 94,” Bleecker said. “One of the residents who saw it caught it on a security camera about 3 a.m.”
Bartolotta said he was surprised as anyone to see the images captured by his camera.
Bleecker said the Johnson Creek Police Department will be keeping an eye out for the bear and dealing with whatever might happen. He said people should treat the bear like they might treat coyotes that inhabit the village and keep an eye on their small children and pets. He also said the department will be in touch with the DNR on the matter.
“Up north, this happens all the time,” Bleecker said, “but we will be in touch with the DNR ... A black bear that is not provoked should not be a problem. We will just do our due diligence.”
“As of right now,” Jonas said, “we’re just letting him stay out of trouble and hopefully he’ll head back north on his own.”
Jonas said that if residents are worried about the bear becoming a problem, they should bring in garbage cans, bird feeders and grills to remove food smells.
If anyone has more sightings, go to www.dnr.gov and search for “large mammal.” An observation will come up and can be filled out.
“It helps us document movement and time,” Jonas said.
-- Jennifer Eisenbart of the Daily Jefferson County Union contributed to this story.