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Black Bears Recolonizing Historic Ranges: Indiana Human–Bear Interactions

By Bradford J. Westrich, Emily B. McCallen, Geriann Albers

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Over a century after extirpation from Indiana, USA, 2 American black bears (Ursus americanus) were confirmed in the state during the summers of 2015 and 2016. The first bear encountered a public and management agency unaccustomed to living with large carnivores, which resulted in intentional and unintentional feedings, habituation, and ultimately its euthanasia. The Indiana Department of Natural Resources (DNR) attempted to learn from this encounter and began preparing for the next transient black bear. Education materials were created to help minimize human–bear interactions, promote living safely with bears, and inform about what to do when encountering a bear. Additionally, bear traps were purchased and staff were trained to safely deploy and use these traps. During the summer of 2016, when a second black bear was confirmed in Indiana, the DNR deployed targeted education and outreach materials to try to help maintain a positive living-with-bears environment and minimize human–bear interactions. Expanded public education and a slight increase in preparedness of the DNR provided 2 different outcomes for the recent bears in Indiana. These are likely not the last bears Indiana will host; habitat suitability models suggest that Indiana could potentially support bears in portions of the state. Natural range expansion in neighboring states suggest that Indiana will see more black bears in the future. These 2 bears highlighted the need for Indiana and other state agencies to have some preparations in place—especially related to education—to respond to transient large carnivores that are moving through and eventually recolonizing long extirpated areas.


Marcy Wilhelm-South

Purdue University

Date 2018
Publication Title Human-Wildlife Interactions
Volume 12
Issue 3
Pages 411-416
DOI 10.26077/y89k-b463
Language English
Additional Language English
Cite this work

Researchers should cite this work as follows:

  1. Animal roles
  2. Bears
  3. human-wildlife interactions
  4. Indiana
  5. open access
  6. Wild animals
  1. open access