There’s a pretty good chance that a few wandering black bears coming down from Minnesota and Wisconsin will visit northeast Iowa in the coming weeks, according to Vince Evelsizer, furbearer and wetland wildlife research biologist with the Iowa Department of Natural Resources. It has been an annual occurrence in this region each spring since 2014.
Black bears are native to Iowa, but Iowa has been without a resident bear population for more than 100 years. Since 2002, there have been 43 confirmed black bears in Iowa, and two to five per year since 2014.
As black bear populations in Wisconsin, Minnesota and Missouri are stable to increasing, it is possible that a small population could set up residence in Iowa.
“Within the next three to five years, I think we can expect to see cubs show up and a small breeding population become established,” Evelsizer said. Most likely, that would be in areas of northeast, eastern and southern Iowa, areas with the habitat necessary to support bears.
Wisconsin’s black bear population is estimated at close to 30,000, Minnesota’s at 15,000 and Missouri, which is holding its first bear hunt later this fall, as many as 1,000.
“If you encounter a bear, avoid running away,” Evelsizer said. “Instead, back away slowly and cautiously while facing it. Make noise so they know you’re there.”
For more information, visit www.bearwise.org.
Melanie Mergen is Local News Editor for the Globe Gazette. You can reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.